Catherine Marshall recently turned 50 and to mark the milestone birthday a trip that took in Scotland to find out more about her ancestry, to Burgundy to gather information about her favourite variety Pinot Noir and Tibet to explore her spiritual side. “Being 50, I find myself less angstful and more able to bring myself to Pinot Noir,” she says.
At a tasting yesterday, she showed Mugnier Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Maréchale 2010, Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru, Domaine Dujac Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Aux Combottes 2010 and Lafon Volnay 1er Cru Santenots-Du-Milieu – more in the sense of being wines which inspire her rather than bearing any direct comparison to what she does back here.
Then her own 2007 (from a combination of Darling, Elgin, Outeniqua grapes) and the 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages of her Reserve (grapes sourced from Shannon Vineyards in Elgin).
Comparisons might be odious but they’re inevitable, too. The Burgundies were simultaneously denser and brighter in colour – black with a violet rim – while Marshall’s wines tend to be dark red with a brown rim. Why? Burgundian producers work with lower pH levels, are more inclined to use whole bunch fermentation (stalks helping to fix colour) and the process of malolactic fermentation is significantly more drawn out possibly helping to keep the wine more “intact”.
In taste, the Burgundies tended to be more pure fruited and fresh while Marshall’s wines tended to have more “cooked” fruit with earthy, meaty notes.
All that said, the climb in quality across the four vintages of Marshall’s wines is steep and the Reserve 2011 (R200 a bottle retail) is her best to date. Red fruit and some musky perfume. Lighter bodied but not completely without texture, nice fresh acidity and fine tannins.
Of course, Pinot is confounding. Marshall’s 2007 seemed too advanced by far on its own but matched with some Époisses de Bourgogne at the end of lunch came in to its own. Surely food must also be considered when it comes to deliberations concerning the meaning of terroir?