TLDR: Scroll right to the bottom for final rankings and scores.
The featured wines in no particular order:
Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2014 (R370.00)
Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2013 (R320.00)
David Nieuwhoudt’s Ghost Corner Pinot Noir 2015 (R200.00)
Balance Pinot Noir 2015 (R52.00)
Catherine Marshall Clay Soils Pinot Noir 2013 (R250.00)
1. Colour & Appearance:
Wines 1&3 were both pale ruby with garnet rims, which had the group leaning towards guessing that they were the older of the wines on the table.
Wine 2 was a touch duller than the other four wines, but was a straight cherry red/ medium ruby.
Wines 4&5 has notably increased intensity, and both featured slightly more of a blue base to their colour – more medium purple in nature.
2. Aromas and Bouquet:
Wines 1 & 3 immediately presented with a marvelous mix of savoury, smoky, oak and intriguing red cherry notes…
But didn’t compare to the explosive Wine 4, with its red licorice, smoky oak, and sweet black plum complication.
Wine 5 presented as artificial in nature. Almost like a cheap boiled blackcurrant sweet. This overly sweet element and the artificial nature of the nose had many members tipping this to the be the cheapie on the table.
Wine 2 was quite closed aromatically, but did feature some pleasant red cherry notes.
Wines 1 & 3 presented pronounced but elegant red cherry acidity, though wine 3 was perhaps a little tart, with acidity outweighing the fruit on the palate a tad.
Wine 2 was very simple, but was impeccably balanced (mildly sweet ripe cherry fruit against clean lingering acidity).
Wine 4 left all the others behind with superb sweet plum notes leaning against ripe red cherry acidity, all rounded off by rich oak spice, followed by a ludicrously long fruity tail.
Wine 5 displayed more black fruit than the rest, and while it showed pleasant complication on the palate, it’s finish was a little rough. And to be honest, most of the group had already relegated it to last place (perhaps prematurely?)
4. Initial Conclusions:
Wines 1, 3 & 4 were superior products. So if there were four esteemed Pinot Noir producers on the table, but only three great wines, one of them had to be letting the side down. My money was on Hamilton Rusell. Had we just opened it too early? It was only a 2014 after all; not a superb vintage by any stretch of the imagination. And while coastal regions may have done better than those inland, it was by and large a tough year… So could HR be represented by the short, but clean and balanced red cherry affair represented by wine number 2?
One thing was certain, we all had wine 5 pegged as the artificial tasting , slightly too sweet pocket friendly Balance Pinot Noir.
Which left the marvelous 1, 3 & 4 to be divvied up between David Niewoudt, Bouchard Finalyson, and Catherine Marshall.
5. Final Guesses:
Was Wine 1 Bouchard Finalyson Galpin Peak? A lovely mix of savoury oak, soaring cranberry acidity and ripe cherry fruit.
Wine 2 felt like it could have been Hamilton Russell, an okay wine, crippled by a poor vintage.
Wine 3 was possibly Catherine Marshall, with clean red fruit, and laser-like acidity that decisively cut through the middle of it all. Though confidence was low here.
Wine 4 was David Nieuwhoudt…I felt certain. On account of him being one of South Africa’s most celebrated winemakers, producing international award-winning wines for both Cederberg (his Shiraz and Cabernet sauvignons in particular) and for Ghost Corner (the Sauvignon Blanc in particular).
Wine 5 was Balance PN; slightly contrived, and just not on a par with the legends that it was forced to share the stage with.
6. The Big Reveal:
So…which wine was where?
Wine 1. Catherine Marshall Clay Soils Pinot Noir 2013 (R250.00). Quality rating: 17/20.
Wine 2. (surprisingly) Balance Pinot Noir 2015 (R52.00). Quality rating: 13/20. Value rating…off the charts.
Wine 3. Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2014 (R370.00). Quality rating: 16/20. Value rating…fairly poor.
Wine 4. Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2013 (R320.00). Quality rating: 18/20. An out and out winner. Value is adequate.
Wine 5. David Nieuwhoudt’s Ghost Corner Pinot Noir 2015 (R200.00). Quality rating: 12/20. I need a rematch. I was shocked to have scored this so badly, when, historically he has been one of my favourites…then again, such are the joys of blind tastings.