South Africa’s development as a country that looked first to copy the classic winemaking styles of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone, before finding its own voice, its own identity is perfectly illustrated in Creation Wines. Situated in the heart of the cooler climate region of Hemel-en-Aarde, close to Hermanus, it is one of the leading producers of what you might call South Africa’s modern Burgundian wines, says Greg Sherwood MW.
How Creation Wines is taking Burgundy style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and giving them very much a South African approach, helped enormously by the climate and cool winds of the Hemel-en-Aarde.
Last year I was honoured to be asked to chair the 2016 Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir Celebration in South Africa. This was my first proper opportunity to get to know winemaker JC Martin from Creation Wines a little better. Originally from Switzerland, JC together with his South African wife Carolyn (Finlayson), bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for the 2007 harvest.
JC (pictured below) and Carolyn were passing through London recently and I caught up with them at 67 Pall Mall private members club to taste a fascinating vertical of Pinot Noirs from the Creation Reserve range. Their Walker Bay estate now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focusing on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Tasting through a vertical of the Reserve Pinot Noirs from 2010 to 2016, what struck me was the evolution in style of the wines, which originally started out being vinified with no whole bunch portion in a slightly riper, more opulent, powerful style, which has given way to greater elegance, purity and balance.
2010 Reserve Pinot Noir is a more rustic, bold, powerful, earthy style with a touch of wood smoke, graphite, tar and sweet black berry confit at 14.5 Abv. (90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
2011 Reserve Pinot Noir is brighter with fresh crunchy red cherry and cranberry spice. Very vital, possessing a fine acidity and a granitic mineral vein. Palate is dense but plush, with multiple textural layers of opulent pithy red and black berry fruit. Real step up in quality and intensity. 14%. (93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
2012 Reserve Pinot Noir is very impressive revealing dusty dark berry fruits and granitic minerality. The tannins are seamless and the wine possesses a wonderful overall balance, very fine texture and polished tannins. Beautiful purity of fruit and lovely harmony here. 14%. (94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
2013 Reserve Pinot Noir is cool and pure, crunchy, vibrant and fresh. Plenty of red cherry, raisined cranberries, and pomegranate fruit nuances. Texture is incredibly sleek and polished with 30% whole bunch adding some sappy spicy complexity. There is impressive concentration, finely polished tannins, layers of sweet blood orange and tangerine peel in a very youthful, vibrant package. 14%. (94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
2014 Reserve Pinot Noir is dense and full of dark black fruits, liquorice, tar, and raisined black cherries. The palate is cool and concentrated, with vibrant black cherry fruit, fresh vibrant acids and a ripe fleshy textural opulence. Very fine but perhaps not quite the intensity and drive of the 2013. 13.9%. (93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
2015 Reserve Pinot Noir is fantastically fragrant with lifted aromatics of spiced cherries, cranberries, and pomegranate, laced with a granitic minerality. Tannins are sweet and textural, balanced with concentrated fruit intensity. I love the exotic clove and cinnamon notes with an impressive, complex sappy finish. A really beautiful wine. (94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
2016 Reserve Pinot Noir is a worthy follow up to the fab 2015, showing a dark, dense, cranberry and cherry spice nose with plenty of blood orange, tangerine, and dusty minerality. Very tight knit, focused expression with hallmark polished tannins, and a long finish of bramble berry and red cherry on the concentrated finish. Very classy wine with superb balance. (94/100 Greg Sherwood MW).
It was a real privilege to get this concise snapshot of the evolution of the Creation Reserve Pinot Noirs. The quality consistency and focused purity is particularly impressive. If you are a Burgundy lover, track these attractive wines down, especially the 2015.
- You can read more from Greg Sherwood on his blog, A Fine Wine Safari.