Chatting to a Pinot Noir maker a while back, the dude flicked the hair from his eyes and said that Jan Boland Coetzee was probably the best Pinot exponent in South Africa. “But unlucky for him, he’s farming in the wrong region.”
This statement had two implications. Firstly, that Stellenbosch is not Pinot valley on account of the area being too hot. And the latter implication being that such statements can be made ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ as long as Jan Boland is not around to hear them, as he may just take it on himself to disagree.
Kind of turns out that Stellenbosch is doing pretty well in the Pinot Noir stakes, thanks very much. Off=hand there are three wines that would definitely feature on my list of the SA Top 10, wines that have also wooed show judges and Platter scribes to date.
Muratie’s GP Canitz Pinot Noir was the only wine to crack a golden nod at Veritas. Meerlust, well, no introduction needed there. And Vriesenhof, Jan Boland’s baby, remains a consistent pure beauty.
Despite all the violin-strummed laments about Pinot Noir’s fickle moodiness and temperamental nature it appears to have found a comfortable home in Stellenbosch. Turns out the grape can function really well without misty sea breezes and vertigo-inducing altitudes. It can take heat and sun, as long as the soils accommodate the plant with love, and the viticulture and wine-making is up to scratch.
Those who’ve walked the Simonsberg will know that Muratie’s Pinot Noir takes a whack of heat in November, December. But still the balanced nuances of soil and viticulture do not prevent the grape from expressing a fresh, classy elegance.
Meerlust, basically situated in Cape Flats Upper, has the benefit of False Bay proximity, but it sure ain’t chilly. Yet the Pinot Noir takes on a Gevrey-Chambertin perfume, gives a silky mouth-feel and gives off a heady, elegant power.
Both these wines are truly world class.
At a tasting last week, in a blind line-up of Pommard, Volnay, Aloxe-Corton, I was asked to slip in a local wine or two. My choice fell on the Vriesenhof 2007. I’d last had the wine two years ago when it oozed a classic work-in-progress character, and I was thus interested to see how things had panned out two years on.
The wine was truly amazing. Not as earthy as the 2003 or concentrated as the 2005, the 2007 was the like striking a tuning-fork and putting it into your mouth. It was clear, focused and extremely pure.
The tannins had settled down, the acidity pushing a multi-dimensional mouth-feel to the fore. The structure of the clay soils and the briskness of the shale had created a perfectly structured wine. Bruised plums and sour cherries gave way to a kick of savouriness and scent of beguiling mushrooms.
Everyone at the tasting was stunned, asking questions I’ll have to ask Jan to answer someday.
But the main answer is, is that there isn’t one.
Good vineyards and good wine-making can make great wine, great enough to render preconceived notions and short-sighted prescriptions obsolete.
Yes, there are guidelines as to where certain grapes are going to grow better. But like Latin grammar, there will always be exceptions.
And on this journey on wine you will always find amazing surprises and be confronted by the unexpected.
Isn’t that just great.
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