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08 September 2012

South Africa: Pinot Noir

These eight reds scrutinized and tasting-noted below perhaps give a reasonable snapshot of what's happening with Pinot Noir in the Cape, all sampled in London a couple of months ago. As for wine regions I've breezed through here, the producers are based in: Stellenbosch not far east of Cape Town, the Elgin Valley found about an hour southeast of the 'capital' up in the mountains; and heading further south, you come across arguably the best-known name in South African Pinot, or certainly something of a pioneer for the variety, Hamilton Russell nestling in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near the town of Hermanus on the coast; then keep going south along the coast and you'll eventually reach Cape Agulhas, the Western Cape's and South Africa's most southerly vineyard area. Getting a pattern here location and climate wise... Some of the Pinots I tasted with 14% or more alcohol seemed less balanced and accomplished, implying it doesn't suit hotter areas like the Paarl Valley as well, which is a little further inland from Cape Town than Stellenbosch (although is still mountainous). Or being picked too late.
As for quality and/or value for money, the price ranges I've indicated below are a bit vague but show these producers are generally neither expensive nor cheap in the context of good Pinot - and these ones mostly are - with a couple of quite dear bottles (that's famous names for you) and 'best value' probably coming from Strandveld winery.

The Winery of Good Hope team
from 
www.thewineryofgoodhope.com
The Winery of Good Hope 2010 Radford Dale Freedom Pinot Noir, Elgin (13% alcohol) - quite delicate and has that tasty 'sweet/savoury' Pinot thing going on, with refreshing bite / light bitter twist; less concentrated than some of this batch of Pinots but is still an attractive obviously PN style. Price: UK £10-£20 (importer Les Caves de Pyrene), Eurozone €15-€30 (e.g. Cassidy Wines Ireland), USA $30-$50 (Martignetti and World Premiere Wines) and just about everywhere else by the looks of it (click on link above in photo caption then "where to buy").
Kleine Zalze 2010 Vineyard Selection Pinot Noir, Stellenbosch - a tad juicy fruity to start on the nose, moves on to nicer savoury tinged palate showing a bit of grip vs silky fruit texture. Not bad in the end.
Paul Cluver 2009 Pinot Noir, Elgin (13.3%) - maturing 'sweet/savoury' fruit aromas, elegant and tasty palate showing attractive freshness vs ageing character lingering on the finish. Good stuff. £10-£20, €15-€30 or $30-$50. Widely distributed in Europe, North America etc: see www.cluver.com.
Meerlust 2010 Pinot Noir, Stellenbosch (14%) - lovely savoury vs fruity profile, nice rounded tannins with pretty intense and powerful length; weightier wine yet stylish. £20+, €30+ or $50+ (UK/US: Maison Marques et Domaines) - more info @ www.meerlust.co.za.
Hamilton Russell Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (13.7%) - elegant ripe berry notes with savoury / 'forest floor' edges, has nice bite combined with a little weight and subtle concentration and length; a touch of class. UK importer Hallgarten Druitt: more @ hamiltonrussellvineyards.com.
Creation Pinot Noir 2011, Hemel-en-Aarde (14.4%) - enticing 'sweet/savoury' Pinot nose, quite big and structured palate showing a hint of oak, delicious fruit though despite that alcohol lingering a bit too much on the finish. £10-£20, €15-€30 or $30-$50: widely exported, see www.creationwines.com.
Strandveld 2009 First Sighting Pinot Noir, Cape Agulhas (13.7%) - browning maturing colour with intriguing 'cheesy' mushroom tones on the nose, has quite lush 'sweet/savoury' fruit on its silky maturing palate; finishing with a bit of power vs still quite fresh actually despite those attractive ageing flavours. £7-£10, €9-€15 or $15-$30: find importers on their site.
Glen Carlou 2011 Pinot Noir, Paarl (14%) - fragrant ripe red berry notes turning to liquorice even, tinged with savoury edges; fairly punchy palate vs more delicate fruit underneath and a hint of fresh bite too. Nice but a little 'clunky' perhaps. £10-£20, €15-€30 or $30-$50. Part of the Hess Family group so widely distributed I'd imagine: www.glencarlou.co.za.


South Africa part 2: "unusual" reds (well, some of them...)
South Africa part 3: Chenin blanc, Viognier, Grenache blanc... 
South Africa archive page.

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