After a visit to three of Burgundy’s top pinot noir producers last year and five of our own in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley early this year, and falling in love all over again with this “most romantic of wines”, I simply had to find out if there were any other local producers of quality pinot noir wines.
It is a well-known fact that pinot noir flourishes in cool climates, like in Burgundy, Germany and Switzerland. The Cape winelands is not exactly a cool climate wine producing area, but we do have areas that are on average cooler than the Mediterranean climate that characterises most of our wine regions.
And then I bumped into Gary Baumgarten, MD of Anthonij Rupert Wyne (ARW), at the launch of a wine company in Riebeek Kasteel. During our conversation my recent experiences with pinot noir came up and Gary mentioned that ARW also had a pinot noir of which they were very proud. And when he promised to have a “sample” delivered for me to evaluate, I could hardly contain my excitement.
Incidentally, Gary also mentioned that the fruit of the pinot noir vineyards were used for MCC for about a decade before it was decided that the vines were old and mature enough to produce an excellent pinot noir wine. Classy!
The Cape of Good Hope Sneeuwkrans Pinot Noir 2016 duly arrived and I couldn’t wait to try it. The experts tell me that when young, pinot noir wines usually show off red berry and fruit flavours, such as strawberry, cherry and raspberry. With age, they grow more complex, with bramble, mushroom and spice flavours developing. I’m still to make up my mind, but I’m leaning more and more towards the younger ones!
But before I go into its flavour profile, here’s some background. Altima, where the grapes are grown, is situated in Elandskloof, an isolated valley north of Villiersdorp. It is 5km wide and surrounded by a steep mountain range that rises 1km from the valley floor. The steep topography causes the valley to receive less direct sunlight due to the overshadowing mountains, which, together with the elevation of 600 to 800m, equates to a very cool climate for the valley. This unique terroir produces wines with a high natural acidity and upfront aromas. Grapes are harvested much later than in other sites in the Western Cape, with harvest usually starting early in March. This vineyard produces an intense pinot noir character with rich red fruit and a very fine and layered structure.
The fruit are picked in 2 stages, the bottom part of the vineyard separate to the top. The reason is a slight difference in ripening and different clones, each contributing to a range of
flavours and structure. All the fruit are de-stemmed and then fermented in old wooden barrels and small 1 ton open-top stainless steel tanks. After fermentation the wine is aged in old 225ℓ French oak barrels for 10 months before being bottled, after which it is bottle-aged for a further 2 years.
Right, now let’s get to the good news! The nose offers delicate hints of rose petal, with red berries being most prominent, and hints of vanilla and sandalwood. On the palate there are flavours of bright red cherries and strawberries, with nuanced spiciness.
The Cape of Good Hope Sneeuwkrans Pinot Noir 2016 is a wine “which changes in the glass, but always holds your interest”. Get yours by visiting www.rupertwines.com, you won’t be sorry!