A Pants-Wetting Pinot Noir


The Crystallum Cuv+¬e Cinema Pinot Noir 2008 is a wine that gets one thinking. This I like. Although a wine that leads to introspection and thought does not automatically make it a good one. I have spent many an evening tossing and turning over a vinous disappointment, reliving a ghastly over-tannic experience and wishing slow and painful death upon the smooth-talking wine-dealer who sold me that particular ringer.

The Crystallum Cinema is, however, a very, very good wine.

Okay, let’s get the PR talk out of the way. It is made in the revered Hemel-en-Aarde Valley by two dudes from the Finlayson winemaking dynasty. Not the Walter section, but the Peter part ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ that is Peter Finlayson of Bouchard-Finlayson fame.

These Finlaysons are his sons – Peter-Allan and Andrew. Aforementioned is the winemaker. The other an architect. They are young, cool and look like characters from a Coen brothers movie before the schizophrenia sets in.

The words “hip” and “happening” spring to mind, although a hair-cut is in order, and for two young wine dudes the incomplete and sparse website www.crystallum.co.za sucks, but this is all beside the point.

Crystallum Cuv+¬e Cinema 2008 has a lot of hype. First wine to get 5 Stars in Wine Magazine. The bottles rarer than objective sighted wine-tastings. But hey, I fell for it and scored six bottles from The Wine Village.

As any self-respecting freeloading wine journo knows, wines you actually have to pay for come up for far harsher scrutiny than those freebies delivered by smiling PR’s.

But the wine did all the talking.

I have only cracked one bottle so far and this was in the company of Danie de Wet, who along with Jan Boland Coetzee is the best wine-taster in the country.

Danie called it a “mooi wyn”, which is De Wet speak for very, very good.

This I can vouch for.

It is inky and dark. It is obvious Pinot on the nose. The palate is sumptuous and perfume, with lengthy seductive fruit verging on the promiscuous. We are talking Moroccan spice stalls and silk sari’s worn by high-class Indian call girls. We taste dates and dried fig, with a brush of sage, allspice and rosewater. It lies on the palate like a good memory passed through your lips on the wings of a lovely blue butterfly.

Yes, yes, it is Pinot Noir, and we can sense it. But there is no conventional forest floor or mushroom compost or widow armpit. There is an exotic abandonment in this wine which is quite extraordinary.

If I were to compare it to Burgundy, I’d have to look off the beaten track. Possibly, at a push, to Month+¬lie, and then an old wine from the 1980s.

And this is what I am thinking.

Pinot Noir is such a revered grape. One tends to expect Burgundy on the palate and winemakers tend to aim for Burgundy in the cellar. But a wine such as Crystallum is nowhere French, nowhere Burgundy. It is beautiful and it is very good and it is world-class. But it is South African.

True South African excellence does not have to take a step back for anyone. Make South African wines.

Because we is what we are.

– Faizel van der Vyver

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6 thoughts on “A Pants-Wetting Pinot Noir

  1. The Cinema Pinot is not as good as you might think. My bottle, dearly paid for is fizzy and anamalistic.

  2. I was traveling to friends for dinner on my Vespa. No boot in sight! Try the wine again. You may find yourself using “F” as a descriptor and not the first of your name.

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