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Thursday, December 15, 2011


Pinot noir, the great red wine of Burgundy, in central France, was the theme of the Christmas tasting and lunch of our private wine group.

It was an extravagant affair, even though five of the six wines tasted were from the Cape, not Burgundy. Ironically enough, the sole import, a wine from Chile, was the least expensive of the lot.

The hostess at the tasting was Joan Seebregts and she assembled a really distinguished cluster of reds. All five of the local wines served are given four and a half stars in the Platter wine guide, a rating that means outstanding. Not surprisingly, our own marking in the blind tasting reflected this; the scores ranged from 15,2 to 18 out of 20 maximum.

The high prices of these wines are explained by the fact that pinot noir is a grape that is difficult to cultivate and is a relatively small bearer of fruit, compared with some other types. It has not been grown for very long in South Africa and still accounts for only about 1 percent of all the vineyards.

Pinot noir wines cover a wide range of tastes and aromas: cherry, raspberry, strawberry, currant and “farmyard”, the latter difficult to explain but you recognise it when you encounter it.

The wines presented by Joan Seebregts displayed all these features. Top mark in our reckoning went to the Hamilton Russell pinot noir 2009 from the Walker Bay/Hermanus area, a fragrant, subtle, slightly smoky wine described in the Platter guide as a local classic. Price: R255 a bottle.

Second place went to the 2008 vintage of Oak Valley pinot noir from a distinguished cellar in the Elgin area. Tastes and scents of cherries and plums and touches of tobacco leaf. Price: R200.

The differences in our scoring of the various wines were marginal. The others tasted were:

Bouchard Finlayson Tete de Cuvee Galpin Peak pinot noir 2009 from Hermanus, powerful, ripe, fruity and the most expensive on our list at R620 a bottle. Paul Cluver Seven Flags pinot noir 2008, from Elgin, intense, ruby colour, barnyard scents, price R420 a bottle. Haute Cabriere pinot noir 2007, from Achim von Arnim’s Cabriere estate at Franschhoek, deep pink colour, soft fruit flavours, R145.

Casillero del Diablo pinot noir 2009, from Chile, medium-bodied, summer fruit flavours with hints of coffee and chocolate. Del diablo means “of the devil”. About a century ago the owner of the cellar discovered that some of his finest wines were missing. He therefore spread the word that the devil lived in his cellar. Wine thefts stopped but the name persisted, “the devil’s cellar”. At R65 a bottle in Durban this wine is very good value. – Michael Green