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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2004-05-29)

Pinot noir, the grape that produces the great red wines of Burgundy, is something of a rarity in South Africa, accounting for only about half of 1 percent of the country’s total vineyard crop. It is difficult to cultivate here, and only about 40 of the Cape’s wine cellars produce pinot noir wines.

Our private tasting group therefore approached with more than usual interest a tasting of six pinot noirs, five of them from the Cape, presented by Alf Sudheim, Secretary of the Durban Country Club. They were all excellent, and expensive, wines.

They were tasted blind, as usual, and predictably enough perhaps, top score in our markings went to the only South African pinot to be awarded five stars in the John Platter Wine Guide, the Bouchard Finlayson, 2001 vintage.

Bouchard Finlayson is a South African/French-owned cellar in the Walker Bay area near Hermanus, where the weather conditions are similar to those of parts of France. The winemaker, Peter Finlayson, is a pinot specialist and in this wine he has revealed flavours of truffles and berries, with a velvet smooth texture. It costs more than R100 a bottle and it is hard to come by. Peter Finlayson did Alf Sudheim a favour by allocating five cases to the Country Club.

Second in our markings was the Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, probably the best known of all South African pinots. We tasted the 2002 vintage, which was produced after a difficult growing season, with unusually heavy summer rainfall. In spite of this, it is a classy number with a distinctive chocolaty flavour and a long aftertaste. The wine was matured in French oak for l0 months. Price in Durban is about R180 a bottle.

The Klein Constantia Pinot Noir of 2000 was placed third. This was an attractive ruby colour and had a rather vegetative and raspberry character. Very good, like all wines from this famous estate.

The scoring was consistently high and the other pinot noirs tasted were Whalehaven 1997, also from Walker Bay, which went for R120 a bottle at last year’s Nederburg Auction, violet and vanilla fragrance; Meerlust 1996, from Stellenbosch, spicy, savoury, smoked meat flavour; and, from Burgundy itself, Chambolle Musigny 1995, with what is known in the business as a kind of farmyard character, a wine bought by Alf Sudheim some years ago for R125 a bottle.

Pinots are not for everyday quaffing. Try one if you are in an extravagant mood and would like to experience something subtle and rare.

xxxx xxxxx xxxxx

The only Russian to own a Cape wine farm, Dr Mark Voloshin, has just celebrated the tenth anniversary of his purchase of Hazendal, in the Bottelary hills near Stellenbosch.

Hazendal’s winemaker, Ronell Wiid, produces four red wines of high quality, six whites and a blanc de noir, the pinkish white wine made from black grapes.

And Dr Voloshin has established, in the wine cellar itself, a museum of Russian art and culture, with twentieth century Russian paintings, icons of the Orthodox Church, and contemporary Faberge Easter eggs.

The farm has a restaurant and you can taste and buy wine. Phone 021 903 5112. – Michael Green




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