The way I see it, Pinot Noir is the Queen of red wines. Indeed, real Queens they are. A difficult grape to grow, with naturally low yields, good Pinot Noir wines are razor-sharp and pinpoint-precise in taste, smell and colour. While many South African reds are rather unrefined taste bombs, loose cannons with a haphazard tapestry of incoherent, syrupy and perfumed fruit, sugar and oak notes, good Pinot Noirs approach my nose and taste buds with a precision and finesse that leave very little margin for error or distraction. The taste and smell of Pinot Noirs I like are clean, direct, precise and pure. An honest expression of the stony, clay-rich, cool terroir in which they thrive. A subtly balanced mix of fruit, spice, minerals and oak, never too sweet. Their colour is light, modest, unassuming, modestly hiding their surprisingly big tastes and smells.
I’m tasting my way through as many South African Pinot Noirs I can get my hands on around and preferably below R200. Here’s what I’ve found:
- (10/10) Shannon 2013 Rockview Ridge Light but complex, wide bouquet. Flowers. One of my favourites.
- (9/10) Lothian Pinot Noir A complex, spicy, multi-layered Pinot Noir. Subtle, sharp and focused. I love it!
- (9/10) Newton Johnson Walker Bay A classic Pinot Noir. Powerful. Earthy. Love it
- (9/10) Chamonix Fruit. Big Wood. Pine needles. Balance. Focused. Complex. Interesting. Smokey.
- (8/10) Freyers Cove 2012 Fruit. Unfiltered. Cloudy. Flowers. Light.
- (8/10) Ghost Corner Clear taste. Smoky. Light.
- (8/10) Hamilton Russel Fine. Caramel. Clear focused. Expensive.
- (8/10) King Kevin South Hill Grapes. Fruity. Fine. Sweet. Honey
- (8/10) La Chaumiere 2011 Full body. Spicy. Tree bark. Forest. Mushrooms
- (7.5/10) Catherine Marshall (Reserve) An great every day drinking Pinot Noir, perfect, but hardly surprising
- (7.5/10) Paul Cluver Smooth. Full taste, earthy but not focused.
- (7/10) Creation reserve Smoother. Thin. Uninteresting.
- (7/10) Driehoek Smooth. Balance. Not interesting. No surprise. Boring. Flat
- (7/10) Edgebaston 2013 Soft. Smooth. Full. Authority. Balanced. Cassis. Half interesting.
- (7/10) Le Cap Maritime (Boekenhoutsklood) Bit thin. Damp nose. Surprisingly powerful and complex. Wood.
- (6/10) Seven springs 2012 Smooth, balanced. Bit thin. Bit boring.
- (6/10) Haute Cabriere Caramel with a spicy, sharp edge. Light. Subtle. Too sweet. Balanced, mildly interesting, but no surprise.
- 6/10 Vrede & Lust 2015 Elegant, subtle, but uneventful and bland.
- (6/10) Springfield 2010 Unfiltered. Bit rough around the edges, but not dnough to surprise. Not too sweet. Full but thin body.
- (6/10) Wildekrans Tastes to me like a Pinot Noir that’s made like a big South African Shiraz. Clouded, unfocused A bit of earthy smoke on the noise, but too sweet and smooth in the mouth.
- (6/10) Arendsig Inspirational Batch 5 An elegant wine, but not the Pinot Noir I’m looking for. This must be a South African Pinot Noir – with the muscles and power of a rugby player but lacking the subtle finesse of a classic Pinot Noir.
- (5/10) Bouchard Finlayson galpin Peak 2013 Cloudy. Not focused. Notes of licorice and marihuana.
- (5/10) Creation Hard. Thin. Sharp. Unpleasant.
- (4/10) Limelight Light colour. Not much happening in the nose. Uninteresting taste in the mouth. A slightly unpleasant, earthy, rotten grape berry aftertaste
- (3/10) De Grendel Op Die Berg 2012 Full colour. Flat nose. Flat taste. Totally uncharacteristic.