“The environment is such that you have to up your game,” says Paul Cluver, managing director of Paul Cluver Estate Wines in Elgin, regarding the increasing number of producers coming to market with Pinot Noir.
Today saw the release of the 2010 vintage (R350 a bottle) of the property’s top-end Seven Flags Pinot Noir and there’s a subtle but definite improvement on previous vintages in evidence.
From a vineyard planted to clone 113 in 1989, picking was both delayed and took longer than usual to complete. In the cellar, the wine was matured in 300-litre barrels for 11 months, 25% new, 40% second-fill and 35% fourth fill. Technical analysis as follows: abv 13.91%, RS 1.6g/l, TA 5.4g/l and pH 3.61.
It’s very cleverly done. Red and black berries plus floral perfume on the nose, both full and soft on the palate. The fruit definition is as sharp as can be, the product of the grapes being picked “optimally ripe” to be prosaic about it, and the acidity is suitably bright. Perhaps not as bright as great Burgundy but then it’s not from Burgundy. The vaguest touch of spice lends interest, something winemaker Andries Burger puts down to 10% whole cluster ferment, and the tannins are about as fine as you can take them before there aren’t any. The finish is long and the wine induces a wonderful lip-smacking sensation.
After a few glasses, you in fact find yourself asking how much better could a local Pinot possibly be? Cluver junior reckons the property is “not even close to full potential” with plantings done over the last six to 10 years featuring a wider array of clones and in more appropriate sites about to deliver even better fruit.
His father, Paul Cluver senior, who trained as a neurosurgeon, says that deciding on the wine’s merits is a partly philosophical, partly physiological matter. “The queen sends far more cards to people celebrating their 100th birthday now than she used to. That’s the result of better medicine and the same applies to wine – knowledge will constantly improve and the gains in quality will follow”. For now, however, Seven Flags 2010 is top of the pile.