#319 Highlands Road Pinot Noir 2015


👃🏼 A fairly mature nose, with plenty of tertiary influence. Touches of sweet raisin, dried flowers, savoury meaty elements, and potting soil. Also notes of cedar wood and cinnamon, all underpinned by sweet strawberry, red cherry, and puffs of rasperry sherbet.
👄 On the palate those fruit notes have been morphed away from their fresh form into slightly more confected strawberry preserve, or cherry candy. What definitely hasn’t waned is the lovely sour cherry brightness, which is still pretty juicy. Obviously, being a pinot, and having a bit of age, the tannins are pretty flipping silky.
This is not a wine that will get much better, so serve it up now, and enjoy all the benefits of disciplined wine cellaring, without needing any of the required self-control.


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Pinot Noir is an enormously divisive grape. It’s nickname as the heart-break grape refers not only to the fact that it is notoriously difficult to bring to maturity in the vineyard, but ALSO exceedingly tough to perfect in the cellar. It’s a delicate grape; hugely susceptible to disease, while simultaneously seeming to often produce the best wines when grown in those cooler, mistier regions that promote the very diseases to which this grape so often falls prey.
And if growing it is tough, perfecting it in the cellar (or perhaps just not getting in the way of its alleged natural brilliance) is every bit as challenging. And yet the most obnoxious wine snobs from Yakima to Ningxia all seem to agree that a fine Pinot Noir is the pinnacle of all vinifical expression. This opinion is ubiquitous and almost embarrassingly unchallenged, which may tempt a young wine explorer to believe that this was ALWAYS the status quo. But it was not. In fact, less than half a century ago, Pinot Noir was the rustic country bumpkin alternative to the more dapper and universally respected Bordeaux massive. As recently as the early 1960s, it was little more than an “also-ran”, with some of its more warmly received bottlings often only finding said appreciation on account of the fact that the uncommonly light-bodied burgundy wines of the day were often beefed up with inkier components from France and (heaven forbid) Algeria.
It seems like an almost Monty Python-esque absurdity to imagine a wine negociant pleading with his peers somewhere in the South of France: “Does anyone have any Languedoc Syrah handy? I need it to blend cover over this insipid barrel of Clos de Vougeot. No? What about some Algerian Carignan?”
Now, perhaps my imagination (and desire to see John Cleese read my script) is getting ahead of me, but if this is the case, it is not by far. Or at least that’s what Master of Wine Jasper Morris reports. But in some senses, the bizarre and stratospheric rise of Burgundian Pinot Noir directly lead to the proliferation of Pinot Noir plantings in much of the New World; not least of all in the wine district of Elgin (South Africa); a region that delivers a disproportionately high level of wine awards, given its minuscule scale of production.

Today’s wine of the day is exactly such an Elgin Pinot Noir with roughly a decade of cellar age under it’s belt. Which will give you a decent idea of the sort of aging potential of some of South Africa’s better Pinot Noir offerings.


🔬 Wine of Origin Elgin. 100% Pinot Noir. Made by winemaker Vanessa Simkiss.


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