Haute Cabrière Pinot Noir 1994

By , 14 May 2020




How much to expect from a South African Pinot Noir 26 years on from vintage? The maiden-release 1994 from Haute Cabrière in Franschhoek caused a stir when it rated 5 Stars in the 1996 edition of Platter’s, then called John Platter South African Wines.

Made by the inimitable Archim von Arnim, grapes came from closely planted vineyards featuring new Burgundian clones (as opposed to the Swiss BK5 that had prevailed until then) and maturation took place in 40% new oak, mainly Tronçais. “A new statement in Cape Pinot” wrote Platter at the time. “Still radiates youthful gulpability”.  In the 1998 edition of the guide, he added “Pricing initially seemed a bit bold (R35 a bottle for ’94 in 1995) but international demand since placed these in context. Against some Burgundies, and the Rand exchange rate, the present price (R47,35 for the ’97) appears rather a bargain”.

Nearly three decades later, the 1994 exceeds all expectation. It appears brick red with a clear rim in colour while the nose shows red cherry, raspberry, a little musk, some earthiness and only a hint of caramelization. The palate is remarkably intact with good weight and texture, the tannins nicely resolved. Sweet in the best sense and far more youthful than it really has any right to be. As good as top Burgundy? A moot point but a bloody smart bottle of wine, nevertheless.

CE’s rating: 92/100.  

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2 comment(s)

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    Stewart Prentice | 14 May 2020

    I recall paying about R45 per bottle for later 90s versions. My intro to Pinot Noir. Later vintages never matched even the earlier ones. I don’t know if I’ll shell out about R230 per bottle now I seem to remember last time I was in my local lollipop shop. Now if only the etailers would just disregard the ridiculous bans in place I could start getting everything I’ve bought online these last few weeks.

    Kwispedoor | 14 May 2020

    Ooof, I remember that wine quite well! When it was released, it was the darkest Pinot Noir that I’ve ever seen up to that point (at least partially due to it not being BK5, of course). In the nineties, most tasters in this country were still impressed by darker colours. But the wine also had an abundance of vivid fruit and a gorgeous mouthfeel. The few vintages after that never quite managed to replicate that intensity and excitement factor – the 1994 was the standout vintage. I last tasted it more than two decades ago, so I’m pretty envious of you right now, Christian.

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