Is there any category running attracting as much hype as Pinot Noir at the moment? There’re about 1 000ha of it planted and 80% of that is used for bubbly production. Of the remaining 200ha or so, half is young vineyards yet to come on stream so effectively 100ha in the entire country. That there are three examples rated 5 Stars out of eight nominated in the 2012 edition of Platter’s would make it just about the strongest category around in terms of quality relative to plantings but I’m not convinced.
Take the 2009 vintage of Seven Flags from Paul Cluver in Elgin. The property’s managing director Paul Cluver Junior says it’s the best they’ve ever made and I agree. In fact, it’s extraordinary quite how far Cluver and winemaker Andries Burger have come since the maiden 2006, perhaps the most significant advancement being how much more deftly oak is used, the 2009 spending 11 months in barrel of which only 20% was new (down from 50% in the case of the 2006).
The wine shows enticing varietal perfume on the nose while the palate has great fruit purity, fresh acidity and fine, soft tannins. My beef with it, however, is that rather than being elegant, it’s ended up a bit too slight and insubstantial. It’s a difficult criticism to make – the appeal of Pinot Noir is precisely that it should be elusive – but the Seven Flags 2009 does a lot of flirting whereas the great ones ultimately do allow you to consummate the relationship.
Is the bar being raised impossibly high? I don’t think so – Paul Cluver are asking R350 a bottle for the Seven Flags 2009 so must expect some exacting scrutiny. Will time in bottle benefit the wine? Most definitely – it appears excessively primary right now and the savoury edge that will no doubt develop as it matures will only do it good. Even so, it scores 17/20 and I think demonstrates that for all the progress which has been made with local Pinot, there’s still a way to go.