Thursday, April 9, 2009

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir vertical tasting shows goodd results

As originally published by, on Monday 20th August 2007

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir vertical tasting shows good results

by Shirley de Kock & Associates

At a recent Paul Cluver Pinot Noir tasting of the estate’s eight vintages from 1997 – 2006 for journalists, sommeliers and the wine trade in Cape Town, the consensus was that the first and latest vintages are the best, although the vintages in between also got some good commendations.

Winemaker Andries Burger, who has been visiting top Burgundian wine estates since 1997, has steadfastly stuck to Burgundian cooperages, with the amount of new wood decreasing from the first vintage of 100 per cent to 20 per cent in the 2006 vintage.

"Most years since 2000 we have used 30 per cent new oak, but in the 2006 vintage reduced it to 20 per cent. The coopers we use are mainly Mercurey & Gillet, which we find is a good fit for our wines, giving just enough oak. Some of the grapes in the 2006 vintage are from new plantings, which were initiated in 2000 based on an extensive terroir study undertaken on the farm."

"We added three more clones, planted on the high slopes of the Elgin estate. While ripening a little later and only comprising four per cent of the grapes, what they add to the wine is more distinctive fruit and floral aromas. Crop reduction and intensive sorting have also resulted in greater concentration of fruit."

Most agreed with Burger that there is no such thing as an average Pinot Noir. Because Burgundy is saturated with Pinot Noir, the market can absorb a bad one, he says.

In South Africa there are so few made since the grape is so difficult to grow and the wine so difficult to produce that it is expensive and wine drinkers don’t want to experiment. But once it opens up and reveals its sweet strawberry flavours, said Paul Cluver, one falls in love.

"It’s like the girl you take home to meet the parents," he says, "and it is very rewarding to receive industry accolades for this varietal - four stars six times in Platter, being considered the best Pinot Noir in South Africa by Wine Magazine, being chosen by airlines for first class, and being voted one of the top 5 in South Africa according to the British Wine Magazine."

Says winewriter Angela Lloyd, "Pinot Noir is about mouth feel. I really liked the 1997 vintage, and the 2006 is already one of my favourites. Paul Cluver has been going places since 2004," she says.

Burger picks the 2004 as one of his favourites, following the voluptuous 2003 and he sees great potential in the 2006 which will be released later this year. "The 2007 is already showing promise," he says.

Miguel Chan, sommelier and beverage manager at The Cellars-Hohenort in Constantia who was judged South Africa‘s first national Jeune Sommelier and will represent South Africa at the inaugural international competition in Frankfurt in September, says the 1997 and 1998 vintages are two of the very few Cape Pinot wines that can last a good 15 years, if cellared properly.

"The wines show some of the best Pinot structure to be found in the Cape, with very good colour retention with one exception, an elegance across the range, with ripe and delicate tannin structure / extraction, that will integrate with time. They show no sign of thinness or dilution, over-acidification or greenness and present an almost perfect balance between wood and fruit."

"They are made with respect, to be cellared and enjoyed with fine cuisine such as very slow roasted duck with salt and black pepper, glazed with fynbos honey, raspberry jus and a twist of Parma Ham or mild game such as Springbok fillet, simply grilled and served rare with a Pinot reduction, glazed beetroot and crostini. And of course a good coq au vin."

"There is very serious winemaking behind each vintage," he says.

Chan’s first choice was the 1997 which he says has typical Pinot complexity, superb tertiary character and slight gaminess, voluptuous tannins, delicate red summer berries; then he enjoyed the 1998 vintage which is very complex, with the colour still holding very well for a Cape Pinot; the 2003 vintage with toffee, coffee, lots of oak, quite charry, he believed was very New World in style. The smokiness will integrate with time and "disappear". It has wonderful purity of fruit. Its big, almost chewy, structure will be great to revisit in 2012 or 2014. He also liked the tight Old-World austerity of the 2006 vintage, which needs lots of time to integrate. There’s lots of lovely fruit lurking behind the ripe tannins structure, oak very well in balance. It will need at least 5 years cellaring."

Wine writer Tim James agreed. "The 1997 showed amazingly well and that despite the fact that it was the first Pinot Noir vintage with 100 per cent new oak, it didn’t show oak at all."

He also liked the 2006 vintage which will be released later this year, saying that the tannin was lower than any of the others, and that the balance was the best in the line-up. All in all, he said, the 2006 will be a very good wine.