Are you a red or a white wine drinker? Or both? I often find that my preferences change with the weather. During winter, I love a hearty red wine like a Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon. In summer I prefer refreshing white and pink wines but sometimes, even in the heat of summer, I crave a glass of red. And my favourite warm-weather (or anytime) red wine is Pinot Noir. There’s a lot more to this wine than many of us may know. So we got some insights from Roland Peens, Director and Martin Pienaar, co-owner of boutique liquor store, Dry Dock, in Jo’burg.

Pinot Noir Hemel-en-Aarde



The wines of Burgundy are the hottest wines in the world right now. Prices of the most sought-after wines grew 40% last year, on what were already astonishing market prices. You will need half a million Rand to buy the most expensive wine in the market. Demand for Burgundy is linked partly to the small volumes of their top wines and partly to the high quality that only Burgundy can achieve with Pinot Noir. There seems to be no end to this bull-run as more of the world’s wealthy enter the luxury market.

Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir



“Pinot Noir is such a difficult grape to grow and yields so poorly that for years [many of the wines] seemed overpriced and underwhelming when it comes to quality. This has changed and there are now a number of outstanding examples available locally, and some are really well priced,” says Martin. “The Hemel-en-Aarde valley near Hermanus has been the epicentre of “Pinot” in SA. Started by Hamilton Russell, there is now a plethora of great Pinots coming from the valley.”

“At the recent Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir Celebration, we discussed the valley’s stature compared to the world of Pinot Noir,” says Roland. “There are pockets around the globe that are able to produce special Pinot and compete with Burgundy. In comparing quality, Hemel-en-Aarde scores very well in the most respected world wine publication, the Wine Advocate. Burgundy wines averaged 93 points for the 2016 vintage and Hemel-en-Aarde came in just under 91 points, behind Central Otago [in New Zealand] and the Ahr in Germany. It seems that our little valley outside Hermanus can produce world-class Pinot Noir.”

The amount of Pinot Noir produced in the Hemel-en-Aarde is tiny however and more specialisation is required to reach a wider audience. Anthony Hamilton Russell has been driving the image of the valley internationally for more than two decades. Along with Bouchard Finlayson, their collaboration with new producers is a tremendous launchpad for success. Anthony has also assisted in dividing the region into three wards, as the next step in the journey.


The Three Wards and Roland’s Top Pinot Picks

After tasting the Pinots from the beautiful 2017 vintage, we can start seeing homogeneity in the three areas. The clay-rich ‘Valley’ ward, closer to Hermanus, offers broader shoulders and spicy dark fruit. Storm Vrede 2017 reaches for the stars.

Moving to the ‘Upper’ ward, the granite soils offer a finer acidity and intense perfume. Storm and Newton Johnson lead the way, but Bosman vineyards is a relative newcomer and winemaker Corlea Fourie is making great Pinot Noir. In fact, the Bosman Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot 2017 is simply the best value at R160 and shows the true quality of the region.

The ‘Ridge’ ward at the end of the appellation is higher in altitude and offers a blue-fruited note to the wines. The newest of the wards shows lots of promise, the Creation Art of Pinot 2017 is, however, dazzling! It offers huge depth, power and age-ability with luxurious tannins and floral notes.

Wine Cellar will be hosting a tasting of the fine 2017 Pinot Noir vintage in Johannesburg and Cape Town. To book your tickets, click here

Martin’s top picks

From Hemel-en-Aarde some of my favorites are the Reserve Pinot from Creation and the Galpin Peak Pinot from Bouchard Findlayson. Newton Johnson and Storm, in the same valley, both have excellent single site examples.

The other cool climate area producing great Pinots is Elgin. I love the Sounds of Silence from Oak Valley, arguably the best value Pinot in the country. For a splurge I would recommend the Seven Flags Pinot Noir from Paul Cluver.

These wines should be served slightly chilled and I drink them with lighter meats, from pork to chicken and even fish!


Some of my favourites

My go-to is the Lomond Pinot Noir, a well priced wine from Cape Agulhas. I also love the Fledge & Co Katvis Pinot Noir and the JH Meyer Elands Rivier Pinot Noir. A recent discovery is the Restless River le Luc from the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, a splurge but divine.


(RELATED POST: Some fun facts about rose wine)


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