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Tasting notes from South Africa

text and photographs © 2010 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on South Africa 2010.


I have visited Peter Finlayson before and met this pioneering presence of the Walker Bay area several times. He is a wonderfully laconic character who can appear quite sombre and perhaps a little too serious until his face cracks into a beaming smile.

Peter was the first winemaker in the area, as winemaker for Hamilton Russell through the 1980s. He started Bouchard Finlayson in 1992 though today the company is owned by the same group that owns Red Carnation hotels in the UK and the Cape.

Peter regrets to diversification of the region into Syrah and other varieties "we had the opportunity to become the Martinborough of South Africa," he says, and it is clear that Pinot Noir is where his heart lies. "Sauvignon Blanc is our biggest selling wine," he says with a shrug, "even though we are not really known as an Sauvignon producer. Fifty per cent of our grapes are Pinot Noir - but that produces only 15% of our wine."

He believes strongly that Pinot will only perform in perfect conditions, and that yields need to be very low. "It's a white wine variety that only produces reds under special conditions," he half-jokes, indicating the delicate handling and respect he feels the variety deserves.

the wines

UK agent is Seckford Agencies. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Bouchard-Finlayson Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Estate grown. Nice style this, with a gentle herbaceous quality and zesty lemon fruit. Some passionfruit in the background. The palate has a nice little pear drop character, with lots of racy fruit and zing, hints of tropicality melding with that lemon rind waxiness and a bit of bite. 89/100. £10.99

Bouchard-Finlayson Crocodile's Lair Chardonnay 2008
From a contracted vineyard Peter has made the wine from since 1992. Kaimansgaat. Vineyards at 700 metres above sea level "like a Swiss mountain" from un-irrigated vines. A touch of apple, melon and almost creamy almond fruit. Nice little background of tangerine. On the palate the lemony precision of the fruit is lovely, with quite a full, textural palate and fine balance. Tight and very youthful, and again will benefit from a few months in barrel just to soften the tannins. 91/100.

Bouchard-Finlayson Pinot Noir 2009
Barrels from a very small cooper in Nuits St Georges who only makes 20 barrels per day. Very expressive black cherry fruit, delightful spice and a lovely fragrant quality of oak, with clove and Sandalwood and lots of delicate floral nuances. Lovely softness here on the palate, with the wood a little obvious at this stage, just a tiny hint of resinous quality, but that is merely youth. The firm, but charming black fruit, smooth tannins and juicy acidity adding up to a beautiful wine. Give this two to three years. 92/100. £25.00

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