Monday, February 9, 2009

Piñata (Pinova, Sonata) **

Piñata appeared at the market complete with snazzy name and the slogan, "Classic apple flavors with a tropical twist." Clearly the marketing gurus pulled an all-nighter on this one, but let's have a look.

This is a medium-large apple with a streaky pink blush over yellow; the fusion effect is a variegated flamboyant orange and very pretty. My photographed sample is a bit lopsided but most of the apples were more symmetrical and had a pronounced conical silhouette. These are moderately ribbed and firm, with a clenched calyx and small light lenticels (many surrounding a tiny dark spot). The unbroken apple has a lovely lush aroma with hints of melon.

Wow! What a surprising bouquet of flavors. Okay, the light yellow flesh is juicy and crunchy crisp, on the coarser end of fine-grained. This is a sweet apple with notes of honey, pineapple, and banana. There's even a little something suggestive of coconut. These tastes are most prominent in the first few bites, after which the sweetness starts to overwhelm them.

Many of the tried-and-true industrial apples--Fuji, Braeburn, and Gala, for instance--aim for the same cluster of taste buds. Piñata is in that sugary neighborhood but brings some wonderful new flavors courtesy of its maternal grandparents, Cox's Orange Pippin and Duchess of Oldenberg. This apple is sweet enough for modern sensibilities but offers some bold new tastes. I have to believe it will prove popular; it should certainly give apple lovers something to think about.

Piñata was bred near Dresden, Germany, and introduced under the name Pinova in 1986. It is also known as Sonata and Corail. The fruit has its own web site and--check it out--facebook page.


  1. Man that sounds really good!

  2. How synchronous! I just got back from Whole Foods where I bought two Pinatas. I haven't tried them yet, will probably take one tomorrow to have at work. And I also got two Sonyas. I haven't tried them either. I'll let you know what they are like. I'll try really hard to find all the flavors you have described in your Pinata review.


  3. Well VonK, Nina, it is eminently worth your attention. Ambrosia is nothing shabby, but Pinata has some truly unusual flavors. I hope you'll share your own opinions of it here.

  4. I ate the second of my two Pinatas today. I could taste the pineapple flavor in both, more in the first few bites than farther in. I think I could catch the banana but the coconut was not something I could detect. And again, I noticed that bites near the blossom end seemed more flavorful, not just sweet, as I'd noticed with the Ambrosias. The Pinatas were very tasty apples, flavorful, sweet with some tartness, crisp, with a nice snap to each bite. I would get them again. Tomorrow I'm going to take one of the Sonyas with me and have that at work.

  5. The coconut was pronounced and clear in my second tasting sample, and present, though elusive, in the third. (Yes, it's a lot of apples, but I'm dedicated to the cause.)

    I didn't notice coconut in my first Piñata, which might mean it wasn't there at all or that I didn't catch it. I might not have found it in the third if I hadn't been looking for it. But it fairly clobbered me in Piñata No. 2.

  6. Well, it's almost a year since you posted about Pinata. I was at Whole Foods and saw apples I thought I hadn't heard of before--Pinova. I bought some and brought one with me to eat it while reading your review. I see that not only have I actually eaten one of these apples, though with a slightly different name, but I've even commented before. This Pinova I've almost finished eating is not as dense and crisp as the apples I prefer. But the flavor was quite nice and I think I can taste both the pineapple and coconut in this one. I've got three others and will see if the others are as flavorful.
    Nina, not really anonymous

  7. Nina, thanks for stopping by! Yes, this variety has several other names too.

    I have also been fooled by trying apples under different names, indeed it seems to be a running joke in this patch of cyberspace.

    It has actually been almost two years since I reviewed this apple, which had a very impressive high-quality rollout with large flavorful fruit.

    This year I've found bags of small Pinatas for sale at Trader Joe's, which seems to enjoy some special relationship with Stemelt, the license holder. (I wonder if your Pinovas were from another source, overseas perhaps?)

    These smaller fruits are still very good--I'm well into my second bag--but not of the same gem-like quality as that 2009 rollout. Perhaps they just need a bit more time to mature in storage, and in any case apples in bags will get dents and bruises.

  8. I'm eating another one right now, purchased yesterday from Whole Foods. The sign above their bin said they were from Washington, so not overseas at any rate. The flavor for this one is good but the texture isn't quite to my liking. And for some odd reason the texture of the skin makes me think this is a somewhat old apple. The skin doesn't feel taut, the way apple skin does on a reasonably fresh apple. It seems a little like it does if an apple sits on my kitchen counter for too many days, unrefrigerated. The sign also said they were 'organic'. I don't know if that means possibly they weren't refrigerated properly at the time they were picked or what.

  9. Although apples are sometimes processed and preserved using chemicals that would not be organic, refrigeration is not considered an artificial chemical input.

    Pinata is characteristically quit crisp and firm, so I guess you got a batch that was not handled very carefully at some point.

    There is many a slip, or opportunity for slips, between the orchard in Washington state and the supermarket thousands of miles, and several months, away.

    Still I'm a little surprised, because apples that are grown and marketed under an exclusive license, like Pinata is, usually get kid-glove treatment.

  10. I bought a peck of Pinova apples yesterday at an orchard in Southern Wisconsin. What a great apple. First they are a beautiful apple to look at. Next comes the frangrant flowery smell of the apple. The taste is also excellent. Seeing the Cox and Dutchess in the parentage I assumed it would be too sharp of a taste for my liking but actually it is sweet with a nice taste of bannana and other fruity flavors I could not account for. An excellent apple!

  11. I don't think anyone grows these out here yet, so I have never had one fresh off the tree.

    Still I always look for them in supermarkets in January and February.

  12. These have been available at my local Albertsons the past few weeks. I vaguely remember seeing the name on this site before, so I had to try one. I wouldn' say it's overwhelming with sweetness, but I definitely love the complexity of flavors. I could definitely taste the pineapple. And I think the coconut as well, though that's always been a subtle flavor for me. For some reason, the pineapple was more in the center, but that just may be because I not to notice the flavor in the center of apples so much.

  13. I rate this German apple as "just OK." On the plus side, Pinata has terrific crunch, and stays crisp even after a couple of weeks in the fridge, which is remarkable. The flavor is nice & original, as described. -- I haven't determined exactly what the "problem" with the taste of Pinata is (I have bought bags of it twice - at Sam's Club and Prioe Chopper grocery - but it has an odd tinge (or possibly chemical?) edge, although I always scrub my apples well before eating. I hope it isn't the pesticide, but who knows? ... Frankly, for every day, I'm going back to my favorite "industrial" apples (your term), which is Gala and Pink Lady (the McDonalds apple), and probably will not buy this German variety again.

  14. I have only had these from a local orchard and the flavor is excellent. I have refused to buy them at our grocery store because I can't imagine them to be better than the onese we got at the orchard. They are a bit acidic for my taste but the tropical flavor of my examples was spectacular! We are lucky because the local orchard grows the Pinova which was able to be grown prior to the Pinata marketing explosion. They are the same apple. This apple has many different names!

  15. I bought these for the first time yesterday, having read over your review of them a few days ago. Grandchild of Cox's OP, I have to try that! Well, ok, I tried it. Not bad. But not thrilling. I have five of these, so maybe I'll pick up on the unique qualities as I eat my way through them....

    1. I guess this is the consistency issue again.

      Mostly these are quite good, with many of the qualities I describe. Not always, though, and rarely as excellent as the ones I got in the 2009 rollout.