A pattern for Pinot – #saveSAwine

This review of Whole Bunch Pinot Noir 2019 from Crystallum continues my series of articles about South African wines worth buying to #saveSAwine. The South African wine trade has faced a lot of problems over the last year, and continues to face them, and if we buy good South African wines like Whole Bunch Pinot Noir from Crystallum we can drive exports and help #saveSAwine.

Whole Bunch Pinot Noir is Crystallum’s experimental wine, made only in small quantities in good years. It is made with 100% whole clusters of grapes (ie. including stems) and then matured in oak barrrels (25% new) for 11 months. It somewhat divides opinion…

Whole Bunch Pinot Noir 2019 from CrystallumWhole Bunch Pinot Noir 2019, Crystallum

I started off thinking this had a character a bit like a 1er Cru Nuits-St-Georges, with spiky tannins and acidity, a melange of red and black fruit and a good, long finish that tingles with earth and mineral intensity. It is clean as a whistle, that is very pleasing. Even better it is only 13.5%; this is highly commendable.

Then as it had exposure to air I thought the Whole Bunch Pinot Noir from Crystallum became more like the Joblot Givry 2016 I tried a while back. The fruit was showing more of a blackberry, bramble character. It is a lot less clumsily woody than the Joblot Givry, and if I am honest, I think it is quite clearly more complex and engaging.

Then, of course, the obvious realisation: Whole Bunch Pinot Noir from Crystallum is not like Nuits nor like Givry; it is a South African Pinot Noir. And a damned good one at that!

Whole Bunch Pinot Noir from Crystallum has cherry, bramble and a samblange of red and black berries that are oddly reminiscent of those fruits in South African Syrah, not identical, but they clearly have a similar inherence. There are profound links between the expression of these two grapes in the deep turangawaewae of South Africa.

The same is true of the acidic and tannic structure. Although this wine is made in a similar way to Burgundies, it has a bright acidity and taut tannic character that speak of South Africa, not of Burgundy! The terroir is far removed.

So Whole Bunch Pinot Noir from Crystallum is a South African Pinot Noir and I have said it is a good one. I do not mean it is perfect, but this is the mould for expressing South African Pinot Noir.

It does not have to be 100% whole bunches, but clearly a significant proportion of them will enable a great expression of South African terroir; the vivacious South African acidity and rigorous tannins come through clearly. They allow the complex expression of South African fruit to be maximised.

Whilst I approve of this degree of wood contact and the alcohol level, and feel these are good models for a successful Pinot Noir, they can also be variables modified to a degree by the winemaker. Whole Bunch Pinot Noir from Crystallum is a good expression of South African Pinot Noir, but it only need be a template from which to start.

I loved this wine. It was not a perfect Pinot Noir, but it was very clearly a South African Pinot Noir, and a damned good starting place from which other makers can take a lead.

#saveSAwine from VinoSA.

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