The old cliché insists that a picture is worth a thousand words, but anyone with a smart phone will confirm its actually closer to two megabytes. At the opening of the Groendas Ghoema-Ghoema Sokkie (relaxed cocktail party) on the breakwater in Cape Town that lifted the skirts of Cape Wine 2012, the biannual industry show and tell, the photo of a packed Pinot Noir stand and a deserted Pinotage precinct spoke several thousand words about the relative fashionablity of the two cultivars. That most of the Groendas-goers were foreign sommeliers, hotelliers and media stars makes the problem so much worse as Pinotage battles for column centimeters, restaurant listings and sommelier support. But if the invited (and paid for) fringe don’t even bother to taste, how can perceptions be changed?
Not that Pinot Noir is without its problems. The best Pinots in SA are made by Marc van Halderen at La Vierge in the Hemel & Aarde valley and the news that he’s following his heart to the Eden valley of South Australia (watch out for snakes, Marc) is bad news for a varietal that is coming of age in SA as can be seen from our list of the top ten terroir examples. At least Marc is sticking with a biblical metaphor. Pinot is called the heartbreak grape, a nickname which is no joke for SA Pinotphiles.
Top Ten Terroir Pinot Noirs
1.) Chamonix, 2010, Franschhoek
Spicy olives, intense candied cherries and red plums, tangy spice.
2.) Domaine des Dieux Josephine, 2010, Hemel & Aarde
Chocolate, cinnamon, cherries and sundried tomatoes, sappy fruit and tannins, extremely long.
3.) Goedvertrouw, 2009, Bot River
Exotic perfume, Turkish delight. Candied roses and cherries. Creamy mouth-feel, quintessential feminine.
4.) Groote Post. 2009, Darling
Red cherries, fresh, tangy acids. Cinnamon and cherry liqueur, chocolate and toast.
5.) Hamilton Russell, 2010, Hemel & Aarde
Super fresh, tangy and minty, bright acids, oak dominates at the minute, a sleeper.
6.) Highlands Road, 2010, Elgin
Ripe cherry cheesecake with a dusting of spice. Superb.
7.) La Vierge, 2010, Hemel & Aarde
Super spicy with a dash of chocolate, cinnamon and cherry liqueur. Vibrant colour, lively 4 long lasting, intense.
8.) Oak Valley, 2011, Elgin
Classic Burgundy style: cherries and green bananas. Elegant and creamy.
9.) Rietvallei Classic Estate Pinot Noir, 2010, Robertson
Cinnamon and fynbos, spicy and super fresh.
10.) Shannon Vineyards Rockview Ridge, 2011, Elgin
Lively fruit, sweet strawberry and raspberry, creamy oak.