Though SAWIS reports that plantings of Pinot Noir in South Africa increased by 16% to reach 844ha from 2008 to 2009, this still amounts to only 0.8% of the national vineyard. With most of it used in the production of Méthode Cap Classique, the amount of attention that still wines made from the variety attract is disproportionately large and attests yet again to how Pinot is a variety that captures the imagination almost like no other.
Not so long ago, there were really only two real players: Hamilton Russell Vineyards (first bottling in 1981 according to Platter’s) and Bouchard Finlayson (first bottling in 1991), both situated in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Times have changed and there are now a quite a few other contenders offering products worthy of a Pinot enthusiast’s consideration, Chrystallum Cuvée Cinema 2008 which rated 5 Stars in the May issue of WINE magazine and Chamonix Reserve 2008 which won the trophy for best in class at this year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show being two examples.
Even so, opening a bottle of HRV or Bouchard Finlayson remains a treat, both producers still serving to set the standard against which others are measured and I pulled Galpin Peak 2005 from Bouchard Finlayson out of the collection to accompany Joostenberg pork bangers, mash potatoes and petit pois the other night.
On the nose, I found red fruit and earthiness typical of the variety, but also a hint of less desirable volatile acidity. The palate was rich and broad, very expressive with an almost Shiraz-like spiciness and smooth-textured tannins. With time in the glass, the vinegary note on the nose seemed to dissipate (somewhat counter-intuitively) and I also began to notice how well the wine’s acidity served it, lending freshness but in a most subtle way. Elusive as good Pinot always is and a good drinking experience,
I was however left with the question as was whether or not the wine was going to gain more complexity with further time in bottle. Winemaker Peter Finlayson would no doubt argue that it would, while I was glad I opened it when I did.