About the category: Though a notoriously difficult grape to work with on account of how fickle it is, Pinot Noir is capable of making red wines of great refinement and elegance. It is at its most glorious in Burgundy, France, but there are today impressive examples from Oregon in the USA, New Zealand’s South Island and increasingly South Africa.
Perhaps the only characteristics that the Pinot Noirs of the world could be said to share are a certain sweet fruitiness and, in general, lower levels of tannins and pigments relative to other noble varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Pinot Noir is tricky to taste on account of how ephemeral it is in the glass, but this is precisely the charm for many. The best examples have a consistency on the palate that manages to be simultaneously full and soft.
The first Pinot Noir vines to be planted in South Africa were on Stellenbosch property Muratie in 1927 while one of the leading producers of the modern era, Hamilton Russell Vineyards in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, celebrated 30 consecutive vintages last year. At the end of 2009, it was the 15th most-planted variety locally, making up 0.8% of the total area under vineyard.
Key findings: The stylistic spectrum seems to be broader than ever, with medium-bodied, fruit-forward wines at one end and more full-bodied, structured, savoury wines at the other. Still, there are certain parameters beyond which a wine stops being Pinot Noir, and is merely red wine. Those made in a lighter style risked becoming ‚tutti frutti’ while those in a more substantial style stood the danger of becoming unduly thick and heavy.
Significant quality improvements have been noted in recent years when it comes to South African Pinot Noir but there is a danger that producers, critics and public are all guilty of getting a little over-excited about what’s on offer ‚ overall quality has gone from average to good but South Africa arguably still has relatively few examples that could be considered world-class.
Paul Cluver Seven Flags 2008
CELLAR PRICE: R350
Alc 13.64% RS 3.2g/l TA 5.3g/l pH 3.48
Varietal perfume and some earthy developed character. Elegant and refined on the palate with red fruit, fresh acidity and tannins showing pleasing evolution. Also has an intriguing savoury quality. Drink now ‚ 2013.
CE 17 | JP 16 | JvZ 19 | JP 16 | JP 17.5
4 1/2 STAR
Groote Post Reserve 2009
CELLAR PRICE: R117
Alc 13.72% RS 3.2g/l TA 6.6g/l pH 3.67
Forward red and black fruit on the nose. The palate is rich and full but balanced with good fruit concentration, fresh acidity and smooth tannins. Drink now ‚ 2014.
CE 17 | JP 17.5 | JvZ 16.5 | JP 15 | JP 17
Paul Canitz 2009
CELLAR PRICE: R150
Alc 14.55% RS 1.7g/l TA 5.8g/l pH 3.6
Some dark cherry and spice on an otherwise shy nose. The palate is dense and full with juicy fruit, fresh acidity and firm tannins. Long savoury finish. Drink now ‚ 2014.
CE 17 | JP 17 | JvZ 17.5 | JP 15 | JP 16
Paul Cluver 2009*
CELLAR PRICE: R180
Alc 13.32% RS 2.4g/l TA 5.4g/l pH 3.64
Red fruit and some varietal perfume on the nose. The palate is medium bodied with clean, pure fruit, good freshness and fi ne tannins. Drink now ‚ 2014.
CE 15.5 | JP 17 | JvZ 17 | JP 15.5 | JP 16.5
Cape Chamonix Reserve 2009
CELLAR PRICE: R210
Alc 13.57% RS 2g/l TA 5.6g/l pH 3.62
Black cherry and toasty oak on the nose, which follows through to the palate. Medium to full bodied with a pleasant ‚sweet ‘n sour’ character. Drink now ‚ 2014.
CE 16 | JP 15 | JvZ 17 | JP 15.5 | JP 17
Elgin Vintners Third Edition 2009* R90
First Sighting 2009* (Strandveld Wines) R98
Creation 2010* R159
Meerlust 2009 R200
Radford Dale Freedom 2009* R249
Hamilton Russell Vineyards 2009 R285
3 1/2 STAR
Hoopenburg Bushvine 2008 R93
The Winery of Good Hope Reserve 2010* R110
Whalehaven 2008 R120
Phileo 2009 R120
De Grendel Op Die Berg 2009* R140
Botanica 2010 R149
Sumaridge 2009 R180
De Wetshof Nature in Concert 2009 R182
Oak Valley 2009 R190
Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak 2009 R225
Crystallum Cuv√©e Cin√©ma 2009 ARP R230
Strandveld Anders Sparrman 2009 R330
Maison de Teijger 2009 R75
Windfall 2010 R80
Benguela Cove Maiden Vintage 2009* R120
Crystallum Peter Max 2009 ARP R210
2 1/2 STAR
Oak Lane 2010* (Beau Joubert) R45
Virgin Earth 2009 (Havana Hills) R60
Bouchard Finalyson Tete du Cuvee Galpin Peak 2009 R650
Two Pinot Noir wines tasted did not receive a star rating.
PRICES: Wines in each quality grouping are listed in order of ascending price ‚ all ex-cellar unless otherwise stipulated.
ARP ‚ Approximate retail price
* ‚ Bottled under screwcap
Tagged Wine Categories explained