Screaming Terroir at Pinot Noir

Janet Leigh, the original Screamer.
Janet Leigh, the original Screamer.

If Janet Leigh were a bottle of Pinot Noir in the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho and Norman Bates was a cumulative representation of terroir, Janet would have screamed her tits off in that shower scene. No grape, besides Chardonnay, reacts with such hysterical abandon to soil, climate and nature’s other vagaries as Pinot Noir.

Peter-Allan Finlayson, cult-winemaker, Young Gun, surfer and cousin to the more famous David Finlayson, does a great job with Pinot Noir. His Crystallum range hit the local wine scene harder than a 2013 Burgundian hail-storm, elevating PAF into vinous stardom and allowing him to warrant mouth-watering prices for his wines.

The latest Pinot in the Crystallum stable is Bona Fide, complementing the Cuvée Cinema and the Peter Max. (Weird names – A Django Uncorked is, apparently, not far off.)

The Bona Fide is made from grapes grown down the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, while the classy Cinema is crushed from bunches up on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. And oh, what a difference a soil makes.

Peter-Allan Finlayson
Peter-Allan Finlayson

The Cinema has always been, and still is, a pants-wettingly gorgeous piece of fruity silk, with a heady perfume reminiscent of the finer side of Volnay. I poured the 2012 Cinema at a Welgemoed Masterclass® recently, and the gasps of amazement at the delicate aromas and sexy structure of this wine were tangible. Which is usually the reaction of the Cinema virgins.

The Bona Fide is, however, a vastly different wine. See, down Hemel-en-Aarde Valley way where the Bona Fide comes from, the soil is thick clay and hard stone. Dense soil puts more pressure on the vine’s roots, leading to a denser, concentrated wine as opposed to the effect of the lighter, gravelly soils found up the Ridge where the Cinema is made.

Almost black in colour compared to the Cinema’s ruby translucency, the Bona Fide also has denser flavours and a fuller structure. A fleshy firmness hugs tangy notes of steak tartare, gremolata and pine-needle with a noticeable tuning-fork clear irony zing. Far too young, this wine is big in a Gevrey-Chambertin way, a welcome and audaciously profound chapter in the story of Crystallum. Bona Fide 2012 scores a 921/1000.

Still on a Chenin Blanc trip, I procured a case of Delaire Graff 2012, recommended to me by Danie de Wet, who knows a thing or two about white wine. The first bottle had me aghast – obvious TCA, despite the wine being closed with screw-cap. But the second bottle came around, and things were good. Limey zest, a lasting palate of Cape watermelon and Turkish delight but with a lovely bracing maritime surge. The wine is made from 30 year-old bushvines from the Swartland and finished in big oak barrels. Oak enhances the structure, making the wine an approachable mouthful of the more-ish variety, but does not remove an iota of elegant and balanced freshness. Lekker like a cracker. With Delaire Graff Chenin Blanc 2012 scoring 899/1000.

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