SA Pinot Noir vs Burgundy

By , 18 February 2016



Alain Hudelot Noellat Vougeot 1er Cru Petits Vougeot 2013

Star of the show.’s favourite retailer Wine Cellar has started a new series of tastings which sees SA’s best pitted against “international benchmarks” (see the full programme here) and last night saw Pinot Noir under scrutiny – four local examples up against two from Burgundy in a blind taste-off.

With the Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir Celebration still fresh in the memory, I was intrigued to see what the outcome would be. The tasting order was as follows (my ratings alongside):

1. Newton Johnson Family Vineyards 2014 – 92
Wine Cellar price: Sold out.
Intensely fragrant with notes of red berries, rose petal and pine. Light and elegant with lovely fruit expression, bright acidity and a little spice on the finish.

2. Joseph Drouhin Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches 2012 – 92
Wine Cellar price: Sold out.
Black cherry, some musk but also darker notes of earth and tar. Rich and full with fresh acidity and quite firm tannins, the finish long and saline.

3. Radford Dale Freedom 2014 – 91
Wine Cellar price: R295
Red and black cherry plus a slight meaty quality. Good fruit density, moderate acidity and very fine tannins.

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4. Storm Vrede 2014 – 91
Wine Cellar price: Sold out.
Red fruit plus a herbal note. Pleasantly lean – clean, pure fruit, fresh acidity and lightly grippy tannins.

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5. Crystallum Cuvée Cinema 2014 – 89
Wine Cellar price: R370
Red and black fruit on the nose and palate. Rich, broad and lacking a bit of focus – too ripe?

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6. Alain Hudelot Noellat Vougeot 1er Cru Petits Vougeot 2013 – 93
Wine Cellar price: R1 150
Red and black fruit plus a lovely floral note. Pure fruit and zesty acidity. Well balanced and wonderfully detailed – layers and layers of flavour while the finish is long and savoury.

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Put on the spot during the post-tasting discussion, I said I couldn’t tell the local wines from the two Burgundies with any confidence but in retrospect, it was quite clear what was what. The SA wines tended to have more cheerful fruit while the two Burgundies were not as immediately expressive but were ultimately more finely knit.

On the face of it, there’s now not a lot between SA’s best Pinot and 1er Cru Burgundy and the price differential may well seem to make SA Pinot look like the smarter buy. The Hudelot Noellat, however, hinted at the sublime which Pinot only ever seems to attain when grown in its classic home region.


3 comment(s)

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    Udo | 18 February 2016

    NJ FV 2011 is stunning at the moment and will age gracefully for another four years, I am sure.
    And to state that no-one drinks young Burgundy is a bit weird, most people drink their wine young, Burgundy is no exception.

      LePlonk | 19 February 2016

      Hey Udo

      Ja, I’m being a bit tongue in cheek. But using the above example… I wouldn’t open the Hudelot Noellat till 2023. This doesn’t mean it’s not wonderful (it’s a 93 on the CE scale). It’s just not what I think it is “meant” to be. Whereas I would definitely drink the NJ sommer now and for the next couple of years.
      Drinking 10 year old burg next to 4 year old SA pinot would make more sense comparatively.

    LePlonk | 18 February 2016

    We all seem do this exercise every once in a while, but it always strikes me as somewhat pointless in a scientific way (which is what I’m on about. We all know tastings are really about fun).
    I say this obviously because no-one on earth drinks young (good) burgundy. It’s a leave it at the bottom of the cellar for ten years wine. So scoring it young (without being a specialist necessarily, and therefore not making a prediction as to its future potential, and simply judging it on face value enjoyment) seems weird.
    And our pinots don’t age, so a side by side at 15 years really shows us up. (Yes, we’ve all had that good old HR or whatever, but we’re generalising here).
    I’m really just taking exception to the “SA pinot looks[s] like the smarter buy” line. Which seems to imply that burgundy is made for drinking young, or that ours can age like burgundy, neither of which is true.
    (I do have high hopes for the Storm wines’ ageability. Thus far NJ loses it even on year 4.)

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