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Tue Jul 26 23:54:08 SAST 2016

Sweet-nosed pinot noir

Jerome Cornelius | 03 March, 2016 00:43
Wine expert Neil Pendock said the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is ideal for the perfect wine. File photo
Image by: Thinkstock

It is widely known as the "heartbreak grape" because it is fickle and high-maintenance, but the pinot noir has brought great joy to one South African wine farm.

The biggest-selling wine magazine in the world, Decanter, has listed Newton Johnson Pinot Noir as one of the best in the world, outside of Burgundy, the wine-growing region in France.

A bottle of the wine features prominently on the cover of the UK magazine's April edition.

The article features the wine as runner-up, alongside an Australian pinot noir. The best was Germany's Jean Stodden Spatburgunder.

The Newton Johnson wine is described as having a "sweet cranberry nose, real drive and persistence on the palate, a fine backbone of acidity, giving some tension and bite. Silky, dynamic, nuanced long".

The 20-year-old wine farm is in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in Hermanus. Bevan Newton Johnson, from Newton Johnson Family Vineyards, said the team learned of the cover article on Saturday.

"We found out on social media when a customer in the UK tweeted us. It was the best experience in 20 years of making wine. We've been featured in the magazine before, but not on the cover," he said.

Newton Johnson said the cooler conditions of the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley helped contribute to the ideal pinot noir, which he called "the queen of reds".

"South African pinot noirs aren't as prominent as those from the US, New Zealand and Australia. They're very sensitive to clay-driven soil."

He said it was an honour to be chosen as one of the best pinot noirs outside Burgundy.

"Burgundy is the home of pinot noir. Those wines are 100 times more expensive than ours."

The vineyard sells 50% of its stock locally. Its biggest exports are to the UK, Japan and Holland and it sells 3000 cases of pinot noir a year.

Wine expert Neil Pendock said the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is ideal for the perfect wine.

"The area used to be the southern-most - and hence coolest - vineyard site in South Africa, before developments at Elim, and it is ideal terroir for the delicate and floral pinot noir grape," he said.

"The area was identified as suitable for pinot noir by the late Tim Hamilton-Russell, whose son Anthony - and producers like Bouchard-Finlayson and the Newton Johnsons - made excellent examples of wines from the so-called heartbreak grape."

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