In early April, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a very special tasting of some very special wines. Arriving at Mondiall on a balmy Autumn evening, I had no idea what a treat I was in for.
One of the first wine farms to be established in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, Bouchard Finlayson has become synonymous with the production of outstanding Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Winemaker Peter Finlayson remembers starting to make wine there before it was the buzzing wine route of today. Mostly dirt roads and largely underdeveloped for viticulture, it became apparent that the area had the ideal soil for vineyards.
As we sat down to begin the tasting, a glance at the tasting sheet revealed a flighted tasting of four wines, all different vintages, with a Hamilton Russel Sauvignon Blanc and an Australian Chardonnay thrown in for good measure.
The first flight was three vintages of the Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer, a Riesling-based blend, with Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. The make-up of the blend is vintage dependant. According to Peter, wine blending is like a Rubix cube. He also mentioned the advantage of smaller wineries, not being so limited with regards to time restraints as larger operations often are.
We tasted the 1998, 2003 and 2012. The 1998 had been the last vintage to be hand bottled, possibly contributing to it ageing exceptionally well. Peter refers to it as a star performer and it’s not difficult to see why. Softly aged, straw on the nose and a fresh, crisp acidity one would expect from a young wine. The 2012 vintage was the first non-French wine to be sold at the Moulin Rouge.
The next flight was Sauvignon Blanc, including the Bouchard Finlayson 2006, the Reserve 2010 and the Hamilton Russell Ashbourne 2006. Sauvignon Blanc is usually consumed within 18 months, but there is no reason for it not to keep, as it can age quite well.
The third flight was what I was eagerly awaiting all evening; the showstoppers as far as I am concerned: Tête de Cuvée Pinot Noir. Not considered a typical Pinot Noir in the classical sense, but then very few people will ever have the opportunity to taste a Grand Crux Pinot Noir. This will do quite nicely as a replacement. “A white wine grape variety that only makes red wine under certain conditions” – Peter Finlayson on Pinot Noir.
The 2000, 2009 and 2010 vintages were on offer. It was nearly impossible to choose a favourite. The 2000 was a work of art, elegant tannins and overall balance that can make grown men weep. The 2010 (current release) was slightly meatier and ripe but the 2009 was positively infatuating, with fine, balanced tannins, fruit and the slightest hint of jamminess that doesn’t detract but rather adds to the wine.
Rather unusually, we ended off with the Chardonnay flight. A 2004 Seppelt Jaluka from Australia, the 2004 BF Missionvale and the 2003 BF Crocodile’s Lair. The Australian offering had aged well, even with a screw top and being only very lightly wooded. The Missionvale showed a gorgeous amber colour, rich and dreamy. The Crocodile’s Lair took the cake with a caramel and toffee nose, smooth as velvet and perfectly drinkable. While the Pinot Noir has my eternal love and devotion, the Chardonnay seduced me into an delicious tryst, one I would gladly fall into again and again and again…
The marvellous wines were complemented excellently by tapas dishes, prepared by Chef Oliver Cattermole and his team. Special thanks to Peter Finlayson for hosting a marvellous tasting and Janie van der Spuy and Five Star PR for inviting us.