Despite the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley having made the Heartbreak Grape its own it’s worth remembering that South Africa’s first Pinot Noir was planted on the slopes of Stellenbosch’s Simonsberg in 1927, the location being Muratie Estate. Erstwhile Muratie proprietor, artist and bon vivant George Canitz was a buddy of Prof. Abraham Perold, the viticultural guru who “invented” the Pinotage grape, and it was Perold who indulged Canitz’s wish to produce a “Burgundy” in Stellenbosch.
Prof Perold was an eager beaver to help out, although it has come to the fore that the Professor’s relationship with Muratie was based on more than a bit of experimental viticulture and a jovial drinking buddy in Canitz. Perold had a serious case of the hots for Canitz’s daughter, Annemie, and this air of romance no-doubt assisted the relevant parties to go about the task of creating Pinot Noir with heartfelt passion and possibly more than a few rootstocks were planted.
Annemie, who never married, ended up selling Muratie to the late Ronnie Melck who was keen to continue producing Pinot. “Pinot Noir is, quite simply, the world’s best party wine,” he liked to say. And Ronnie would know: today’s wine local wine narrative is so much poorer without his knowledge, palate and character.
Pinot Noir remains a stalwart in the Muratie range, with the 2009 having been given an aesthetic and stylistic face-lift.
The label portrays a dapper George Canitz, whose name now appears in its full glory in an attempt to honour the father of Pinot Noir ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ not only on Muratie, but in South Africa.
Of the wine one can only say that it underscores Pinot Noir as one of the most exciting varieties in South Africa.
Due to the Simonsberg’s substantial clay content, Muratie’s Pinot has always been powerful, intense and earthy. Low pH soils means you first have to chomp a bit of tannin before getting to the fruit, which demands the wines a few years maturation before ideal approachability.
The 2009 Canitz Pinot Noir represents a massive shift in Muratie’s Pinot Noir expression. Intense, beguiling and stern as always, a lighter hand in the cellar plus a superb vintage has given the wine a tantalising juiciness making the drink fresh, pure and exceedingly bright.
This is the wine worthy of Canitz’s own words used to describe Muratie Pinot Noir. “Muratie Burgundy is bottled sunshine, it gladdens the heart and loosens the tongue!” Although purists would obviously have a cadenza at the use of the word “Burgundy”.
Back to the new Muratie Pinot: Full-on blackberry, bramble and crushed dried pomegranate leaps from the glass. The second layer delivers fresh hay drying in the sun, a breath of Herbes de Provence and look, a taint of wild mushroom and doe breath.
The mouth-feel is that of a velvet evening dress rustling around the tanned ankles of a Ukrainian baroness ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ sensual and soft, yet bracing and life-affirming, offering itself to be lifted to greater heights.
Time to get excited about Pinot Noir, folks. With this variety offering amazing terroir expression, from Hermanus to Robertson, Elgin to the Olifantsrivier, Stellenbosch to Koekenaap, it is turning into a major feature on the local landscape, with local consumers clamouring for the stuff. Not many local varieties can say that, can they?