The creation of the three new wards within the Hemel-en-Aarde area which occurred in 2009 thus differentiating it from the much larger district of Walker Bay was derided at the time on the basis that there were simply not enough consumers, local or international, who would care about such fine distinctions.
The fifth annual Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir Celebration having run its course over the past weekend, it is starting to look like a moment of rare inspiration on the part of those stakeholders who lobbied so hard for the promulgation of three separate wards – the Valley, Upper Valley and Ridge.
What the inhabitants of the three wards have done is to claim extra attention to terroir, this, I suspect, already allowing them to achieve reputational price premiums which should only increase as the distinctiveness between the three separate wards becomes clearer over the years, decades and centuries to follow.
But which ward is set to be most hallowed, the Valley with its high clay content soils, the Upper Valley with its more granitic soils or the Ridge with its elevated altitude (the vineyards 300m above sea level on average compared to the Valley at 40m)?
Guests at the Celebration were treated to 15 wines from the 2016 vintage, three from the Valley, six from the Upper Valley and six from the Ridge and ward differences in this somewhat challenging year (generally hot but rain affected in January) did seem to be clearer than before, the wines of the Valley showing particular structure, those of the Upper Valley greater apparent fruit while those of the Ridge stylistically somewhere in between.
Hannes Storm is the only producer to work across all three wards and comparing his wines is insightful:
Storm Vrede Pinot Noir 2016 – Hemel en Aarde Valley
Dark fruit, earth, undergrowth and a hint of reduction on the nose. The palate is rich and relatively broad with a good line of acidity and quite firm tannins. A gently savoury, slight peppery finish.
Editor’s rating: 89/100.
Storm Ignis Pinot Noir 2016 – Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley
Red cherry and wild strawberry plus a definite herbal note. Sweet ‘n sour on the palate – spikey acidity and fine tannins making for a somewhat awkward glass of wine.
Editor’s rating: 87/100.
Storm Ridge Pinot Noir 2016 – Hemel en Aarde Ridge
A shy but enticing nose with notes of dark cherry, flowers and herbs. Dense fruit, fresh acidity and lovely tannin structure. Well balanced with a long, dry finish.
Editor’s rating: 93/100.
Other stand-out wines:
Ataraxia 2016 – 90/100
Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak 2016 – 90/100
Creation Art of Pinot Noir 106 – 92/100
Domaine des Dieux Josephine 2016 – 91/100
Hamilton Russell Vineyards 2016 – 90/100
Newton Johnson Seadragon 2016 – 93/100
Find our South African wine ratings database here.