Get your red wine stocks ready for winter with wine writer Greg Landman’s top picks for local Pinot Noir.
In the Oscar-winning film for the 2004 film Sideways, Miles says, “Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression” and how true it is. Notoriously difficult to work with, prone to diseases that other grapes ride over with ease, unpredictable in the extreme, Pinot Noir can be a knockout but only when in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing.
The name comes from the French for pine and black, not because of the flavor but because the grapes form a bunch in the shape of a pine cone on the vine. My top tip for Pinot Noir: cool your bottle in the fridge for about 30 minutes before drinking.
In wine making, time and effort mean money and this translates into some hefty prices for the very best Pinots. Nevertheless there are some out there that make a pretty good stab at it without charging the earth. I’ve come up with a list to suit all budgets. Before we start, here’s one more quote from Sideways, “Oh its flavours, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and… ancient on the planet.”
18 of the best Pinot Noirs
Van Loveren Blue Velvet Pinot Noir
Using plenty of grapes, Van Loveren have created a bottle that’s deep dark in color, fragrant and easy to drink with upfront flavours of raspberries and cherries. Spending eight months in third and fourth fill French barrels, Blue Velvet has well-controlled tannins. It’s a real crowd pleaser at R70 a bottle.
Balance Winemaker’s Selection Pinot Noir
Pop open a bottle and you’ll find that it’s juicy and very appealing. The wood from staves give some nuances, while the red fruit berries add to the fragrance – a quaffer of note at R75 a bottle.
Glen Carlou Pinot Noir Rosé 2018
Probably should have been on our list of rosés, but seeing as it is full on Pinot Noir, it deservedly has a home on this list. Glen Carlou have not created your typical Pinot, but don’t let that put you off. It’s good and clean and fresh – tra la la – and full of the light flavours of summer. It’s delicious on its own but even better with some smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and toast. At R93 a bottle it won’t break the bank.
Haute Cabrière Pinot Noir Unwooded 2018
Just to prove that the Hemel en Aarde is not the only place to make excellent Pinots, wine maker Takuan von Arnim, following in the footsteps of his legendary father Achim makes this delicious example at a really good price. At R95 a bottle, it’s light and easy to drink, and is heaven with duck or a light pasta.
Glen Carlou Pinot Noir 2016
Aged in French oak barrels – some old, some new – for 11 months makes a bottle of this Pinot Noir totally appealing and elegant. It’s herbaceous and light bodied with some floral notes on the nose plenty of red fruit apparent. Pick up a bottle for R150.
Elgin Ridge 282 Pinot Noir 2016
This certified organic farm high up in the Elgin Valley, where cool breezes delay ripening perfectly, produces excellent fruit for a small but focused slate. After being aged in older French oak barrels, this one is deliciously drinkable with plenty of tangy fruit on the nose and the palate. It goes swimmingly with seared tuna for R250 a bottle.
De Grendel Op die Berg Pinot Noir 2016
From high on the Witzenberg Mountains in Ceres comes a knockout from Charles Hopkins and his team at this prestigious Durbanville property with views to die for. After spending 13 months in older barrels to create a powerful and concentrated fruit flavour, Op die Berg is well-supported by judicious oaking that’s deliciously intense. Treat yourself at R200 a bottle.
2015 Groote Post Kapokberg Pinot Noir
Head up the West Coast to Darling where from the highest hill, wine maker Lukas Wentzel creates this voluptuous Pinot that’s packed with typical cherry flavours. It spends 15 months in oak resulting in easy going tannins that make for a delicious wine at R205 a bottle.
Haute Cabrière Pinot Noir Réserve 2015
Matured for nine months in Burgundian barrels, this Pinot is older and more serious with spicy notes supporting glorious deep dark red fruit. Don’t think twice about pairing it with your steak tartare for a superb supper. Top tip: As with all of these chill down to 16ºC for best flavours. Find it for R215 a bottle.
Newton Johnson Walker Bay Pinot Noir 2017
Pop open a bottle of this great wine from wine making team Gordon and Nadia Newton Johnson and you’ll find that it’s fabulous on the nose – fragrant, appealing, fresh and exuberant. It has matured for 11 months in Burgundy barrels, with perfect fruit and oak integration. Find it online at the Bottleshop for R259.
Paul Cluver Estate Pinot Noir 2017
Here’s another charmer from the Elgin Valley and master winemaker Andries Burger. This Pinot has plenty of fruit, a touch of oak adds to the flavour palette and is a gorgeous bright crimson colour making it light and appealing. For R275 a bottle, it’s just the thing to have with creamy pasta dishes or goat’s cheese salad.
De Wetshof Danie De Wet Nature In Concert Pinot Noir 2017
The maturation in the finest French barrels money can buy makes for an impressive bottle that’s packed full of fabulous aromas and flavours, plenty of nutty nuances and lots of delicious fruit being supported by silky smooth tannins. It’s a knockout that also comes from Robertson – an estate known for its spectacular Chardonnays. Pick up a bottle for R342.
Creation Reserve Pinot Noir 2017
After spending a year on 35% new wood and the rest on rest second and third fill, Creation have been able to produce a bottle that has some spice on the nose especially cloves. It’s got a deep garnet colour while being complex and smooth with nuances of dried fruit like apricots. Also from the Hemel en Aarde Valley, it’s irresistible. You’ll find it for R360 a bottle.
Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2017
A Platter’s five-star knockout from this venerable estate – the domain of Peter Finlayson – in the Hemel en Aarde Valley. It’s complex and yet appealing, but not so serious you can’t drink it. With spicy, fruity and delicious flavours, it’s a perfect example of the best available here. This Pinot comes in at R394 a bottle.
Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2017
One again we have another Platter’s Guide five-star charmer that has plenty of high power flavours and is fragrant on the nose with some rose petals lurking as well as a whiff of Turkish delight. From varied parcels on the farm carefully selected, this divine nectar has delicious broad appeal. Find it for R459 a bottle from Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar.
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 2018
One of the finest you will find anywhere at R549 a bottle from Port2Port Wine, this Hamilton Russell creation is one of two wines this Hemel en Aarde estate makes two wines – the other is a fabulous Chardonnay. The Pinot is dark and spicy with plenty of primal notes with superb fruit all supported by the best oaking.
Cape Of Good Hope Sneeuwkrans 2016
From Elandskloof in an isolated valley north of Villiersdorp, this unique terroir produces grapes of exceptionally quality with high natural acidity and upfront flavours. Being much cooler than vineyards lower down, harvesting takes place later, giving the grapes time to reach their full potential. Once aged for 10 months in French oak barrels and a further two years in the bottle, how does it taste? Simply sublime with seamless wood supporting rich succulent fruit and a hint of spice, some strawberries and of course cherries. Get yourself a bottle for R560.
Art Of Creation Pinot Noir 2017
This particular Creation Pinot Noir was selected in the cellar, while the Reserve Pinot Noir was selected in the vineyard itself. The 12 months this particular bottle spent on half new oak, has helped to produce a wine that’s sleek, deep red in colour, super fragrant on the nose and packed full of opulent flavours of cherry and plum with earthy aromas. If you have R905 to spare on a bottle, it’s well worth every penny.
Looking for more of Greg’s wine suggestions? You can find them all here:
- Our Pick of the Best Sauvignon Blancs in South Africa
- Best Rosé Wines for this Summer
- The Best Chenin Blancs for Summer
Words Greg Landman
Photography Craig Adderley; Supplied
As the wine writer for Country Life magazine for the last 15 years, Greg has met and interviewed more than 150 of the country’s top wine makers. His articles offer unique insights into where to eat, what to drink, and where to go all over the Western Cape. With his dining companion Beryl Ormsby Browne, he has also reviewed more than 60 country restaurants for the magazine and has been a reviewer for the prestigious Eat Out Guide for 12 years. His passion for everything the winelands has to offer has led him into the world of wine tours. To find out more, visit his website Magic Grape Tours.