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The wines of Bouchard Finlayson, Walker Bay, South Africa

PO Box 303, Hermanus, South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)28 312 3515

The high-flying Bouchard Finlayson winery was established in 1989 as s a joint venture between Paul Bouchard of Burgundy and South African winemaker Peter Finlayson (who made his reputation working as winemaker for neighbours Hamilton Russell, and who was presenting these wines). Walker Bay is a cooler region of South Africa, south of Cape Town, and has proved to be particularly suitable for growing that most enigmatic of grapes, Pinot Noir. Verdict? I liked these wines, without being completely bowled over by them. And while Bouchard Finlayson has established a deservedly good reputation, my impression is that they are still a little in the shadow of Hamilton Russell. One point to note: Bouchard Finlayson also produce a premium single vineyard Chardonnay, Missionvale, which they were not showing, even though it is their flagship white. Peter Finlayson explained that this is because they were sold out. This nicely illustrates the difference between the South African domestic market (which clamours for these wines), and the tougher UK marketplace, where wines that sell out immediately in South Africa stick around on UK retailers' shelves. You'll find the Missionvale still available in Waitrose supermarkets. The other flagship wine not shown here was the Galpin Peak Tête de Cuvée Pinot Noir.

Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 1999
A medium cherry red colour, the nose shows sweet herbal notes with some pungent medicinal character present also. The savoury, slightly spicy palate has some herby notes, savoury oak and sweet fruit. It's quite a full wine that you'd never mistake for Burgundy, but I wasn't totally moved by it. Very good

Kaaimansgat Chardonnay 1999
Ripe nose of rich toasty oak and fresh baked bread. Bone dry palate is nutty and savoury. Quite oaky, but the oak is well integrated, and it's a tasty effort. Very good+

Chardonnay Sans Barrique 2000
That's unwooded to you and me. It's a light, savoury, unoaked style of Chardonnay with some lemony fruit. Very crisp, and served a little too cold for proper assessment.

Sauvignon Blanc 2000
Crisp clean white with some grassiness and a touch of herbaceousness. Good food wine but a touch 'green'. Good/very good

Blanc de Mer 2000
Crisp, fresh, modern white. Light and fruity. Good+

Tasted May 2001 at the Decanter Rising Stars Fine Wine Encounter

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