Crystallum Clay Shales Chardonnay 2013

By , 11 June 2014



Peter Allan Finlayson of Crystallum

Peter Allan Finlayson of Crystallum

The small cellar on Hemelrand, the Hemel en Aarde Ridge property owned by Hans and Mary Anne Evenhuis, really is an astonishing centre of wine excellence at the moment. Not only is it the official home of Alheit Vineyards but it’s where John Seccombe put together the exciting stuff that currently appears under the Thorne & Daughters label (see here) and is also where Peter-Allan Finlayson has been making Crystallum for the last while. Tasting notes for latest releases as follows:

The Agnes Chardonnay 2013
Approximate retail price: R180
50% Greyton, 25% Overberg and 25% Hemel en Aarde Valley. Notes of blossom, white peach, lemon and some burnt matchstick An impressive core of fruit and gentle acidity. Good weight without being at all clumsy.

Score: 92/100.

Clay Shales Chardonnay 2013
Approximate retail price: R265
Grapes from the Overberg (beyond Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge).  Pear, white peach and that intriguing burnt matchstick note again. Pure fruit and bright acidity before a pithy finish. Beautifully poised and really elegant, almost delicate.

Score: 94/100.

Peter Max Pinot Noir 2013
Approximate retail price: R195
Grapes from Hemel en Aarde Valley, Hemel en Aarde Ridge and Elandskloof. Initially quite wild on the nose (raw meat, chicken manure) but opens up to reveal attractive red and black cherry aromas. Relatively light bodied with a definite stalky edge (40% whole bunch fermentation).

Score: 88/100.

Mabalel Pinot Noir 2013 (NEW)
Approximate retail price: R340
Grapes from Elandskloof. Enticing nose of subtle musk and potpourri. Light bodied with pure fruit, bright acidity and wonderfully fine tannins (no whole bunch fermentation). A really pretty wine.

Score: 92/100.

Cuvée Cinéma Pinot Noir 2013
Approximate retail price: R340
Grapes from Hemel en Aarde Ridge. Black fruit, earth and an obvious but not too discordant note of oak (matured for 11 months, 30% new oak). Rich and full with soft but sufficient acidity and relatively smooth tannins.

Score: 91/100.

Bona Fide Pinot Noir 2013
Approximate retail price: R340
Grapes from Hemel en Aarde Valley. Shy nose but the palate shows excellent depth of flavour – red and black cherry plus spice and a subtle meatiness. Full but wonderfully coherent – it’s not really possible to differentiate between fruit, acidty and tannin. Has a real Burgundian sense about it.

Score: 94/100.


5 comment(s)

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  • earle latham5 August 2014

    have always favoured hamilton russel and bouchard finlayson in pinot…am i behind the times

    • Christian5 August 2014

      Hi Earle, SA wine is in a state of ferment (if you’ll forgive the turn of phrase) and no more so than when it comes to Pinot…

  • Bryan Pearson13 June 2014

    Hi Christian

    I am a big fan of the Crystallum Pinots and have quite a bit in my cellar.

    However, for interest I looked up my invoices for the 2009 Cuvee Cinema and I paid R215 a bottle in 2010 and for the 2012 Bona Fide R299 a bottle last year. At R340 a bottle for the 2013 this represents a significant jump in price vintage by vintage to the extent that is now pretty much out of my price range.

    Just wondered what your thoughts on this were. I presume demand may be driving this? Thanks.

    Kind regards

    • Christian13 June 2014

      Hi Bryan, Pricing of premium wine is always a thorny issue. Most top-end South African wine is under-priced but as our wines gradually reach the international going rate, at least you have the option of whether to drink local or the best from elsewhere.

      We also have to accept that at the top-end of the market price is going to be greatly in excess of production costs but the same applies to luxury cars and haute couture. One difference is that wine is essentially not durable but for some people, experiences trump material goods. If you’re looking for a good Pinot Noir that’s more affordable, try Paul Cluver 2012 at R149,95 a bottle.

  • Hans Evenhuis11 June 2014

    I now sincerely regret not being able to stay for the formal sit-down tasting session after the barrel tastings. You seemed to have enjoyed yourselves, and to have got a good sense of the magic happening in the cellar. We hope that you will find that the Hemelrand excellence extends also to our olive oils. Enjoy! Hans

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