A Bouchard and Finlayson experience. Supplied
A Bouchard and Finlayson experience. Supplied

Wine tasting: A Bouchard Finlayson experience

By Sacha van Niekerk Time of article published Jun 28, 2019

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In a room filled with budding sommeliers, wine enthusiasts and members of the hospitality industry, The Black Cellar Club (BLACC) had a special showcase of Bouchard Finlayson handcrafted Pinot Noirs by winemaker, and South Africa’s “Father of Wine”, Peter Finlayson.

Bouchard Finlayson, one of South Africa’s most awarded boutique wine estates lies in a scenic valley called Hemel-en-Aarde or Heaven-and-Earth. With panoramic views of the ocean and mountains, the boutique vineyard is just a short hour and a half drive from Cape Town. As one of the coolest wine-making regions in the Cape, with duplex soil structures and sun-facing slopes, the promise of the unique terroir is harnessed by the winemaker in slow-ripened, flavour-rich wines. 

Globally acclaimed for producing the best Pinot Noir in South Africa, the opportunity to taste Bouchard Finlayson wine in an intimate setting, with commentary from Finlayson was truly something special. The event was held at The Oyster Box Hotel’s Durban July room on Monday, where we tried the Galpin Peak Pinot Noir from several different years, the Tête de Cuvée Pinot Noir and two Hannibal wines.

Velvety smooth with fruity notes, tasting Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, a bottle from every year, I got a sense of how the wine gradually matures into a true pinot noir. Picture by Lutho Pasiya

A taste of Galpin Peak Pinot Noir through the years

Starting with Galpin Peak Pinot Noirs, this particular wine is described as, ”Rich with luscious soft tannins and red fruits deftly balanced on a cord of lingering plum and raspberry delights. Expected to age with appealing composure.”

We tasted a bottle of Galpin Peak Pinot noir for every year from 2004-2009 before trying the, more recent, 2018 bottle. Being able to learn about the seasons, whether they were dry or wet, opened us up to the journey of wine from vine to glass, and how unpredictable the process of winemaking can be.

The fifteen-year-old 2004 bottle of pinot noir had a very mature, fruity aroma that felt dry as it lingered on my palette. I watched the more experienced wine connoisseurs swirl the velvety dark liquid around in their glasses as co-founder of BLACC, Aubrey Ngcungama, shared that this technique is used to help the wine to open up. “Swirling opens up the wine by introducing oxygen so it breathes and releases the aromas. It is particularly useful if the wine is older and requires more time to open up.” I swirled the liquid around before my second sip and was amazed by the difference and how much more I enjoyed the overall taste.

Out of all the earlier wines, the 2005 pinot noir was by far my favourite. This wine was elegant and smooth and called me back to the glass each time I set it back down. 

We then moved on to the 2018 bottle of Galpin Peak, it was classic ruby in hue, and had a very fruity aroma with more bitter, higher tannins. It was clear it was still very young and still developing into a true pinot noir. After trying all the wines and experiencing how they mature in colour, aroma and taste, I found that the earlier wines were much more velvety with a meaty earthiness that exploded on the tongue. Finlayson said, "This is a versatile red wine that pairs well with fish, poultry, red meats and cheese. When pairing your meal with wine, don't confuse it with too much sweetness or spice as it's important to understand what you are tasting."

Originally prompted by the classic taste and palate of Italian varieties, the Hannibal Red is a blend based on Sangiovese, a red Italian wine grape variety that derives its name from the Latin sanguis Jovis, "the blood of Jupiter" and Nebbiolo, an Italian red wine grape variety predominantly associated with its native Piedmont region. The importation of these grape varieties in 1989 led to the development of this highly successful blend, with the first commercial launch of the Hannibal label 12 years later. 

Finlayson described this wine as a special occasion wine. With firm tannins, this deep red wine has red cherry, flowers and a whiff of truffle on the nose with a little spice. Pair it with red meats and Italian cuisine.  

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