Bouchard Finlayson
Visiting one of South Africa's most interesting wine regions, Hemel-en-Aarde, part 2


Peter Finlayson (pictured above) is one of the pioneers of Hemel-en-Aarde. He was the original winemaker at Hamilton Russell, the region’s founding winery, and after 10 years left to set up on his own, in 1989. For a long time, Bouchard Finlayson and Hamilton Russell were the standard bearers for top quality South African Pinot Noir; it’s only recently that other producers have joined them in making serious examples of this variety.

Bouchard Finlayson, as the name suggests, was a partnership, including Paul Bouchard. ‘I got a group together of 18 people,’ says Finlayson. ‘It lasted 10 years, but eventually became political.’ The property, including Finlayson's share, was bought by the Tollman family.

The property is 120 hectares, with 22 of these planted to vines. More than half is Pinot Noir, a variety that Finlayson is ideal for the region. ‘Where Pinot Noir is concerned there have been more accolades and honours taken from the wineries in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley than anywhere else in South Africa,’ he says. ‘It is a combination of heavy clay soils with a very soft climate. We are very fortunate to have the cold ocean running past us and this moderates temperatures nicely.’

‘Pinot Noir does well here,’ claims Finlayson. ‘It is one of the few areas outside Burgundy where one gets good structure in the Pinot Noirs.’

From 2011 Finlayson has been using the new Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation for the wines that qualify, and the first wine labelled this way is the Galpin Peak Pinot. The Valley has Bokkeveld Shale soils, which have two distinct layers.  The top layer consists of a mixture of clay and gravel, while under this there is clay shale. The clay acts as a water reserve during the growing season, which allows for moderate but not severe water stress, something that red varieties in particular benefit from.


Bouchard Finlayson Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2009 Walker Bay, South Africa
Very crisp and pure. Lively citrus fruit with some grapefruit notes. Incredibly tight, with great acidity, even after four years. 91/100

Bouchard Finlayson Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2012 Walker Bay, South Africa
Very focused with fresh grapefruit, and a bit of lemon. Lively, laser-sharp and mineral. Pure. 92/100

Bouchard Finlayson Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Walker Bay, South Africa
This is Bouchard Finlayson's biggest-selling wine. Very fresh and lively with a touch of herbiness. Nice focused bright fruit, Lively and pure with nice precision. 89/100

Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2011 Walker Bay, South Africa
Lovely supple, warm, spicy cherry fruit. Nicely savoury as well as fruity, with fine cherry fruit and some plums. Real elegance here, with nice purity and complexity, as well as some subtle meaty hints.  93/100

Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Tête de Cuvée Pinot Noir 2009 Walker Bay, South Africa
A barrel selection, 100% new oak. Sweet, juicy and spicy with lovely ripe cherry and berry fruits. Sleek with good texture and nice concentration. There's structure here, but it is not intrusive. Finely mineral with well integrated oak. 93/100

Bouchard Finlayson Hannibal 2009 Walker Bay, South Africa
A Sangiovese-based blend. Vibrant, very spicy and quite savoury on the nose, with some tar notes. Ripe, dense, meaty and spicy on the palate, with a zippy finish. Distinctive. 90/100

Bouchard Finlayson Hannibal 2010 Walker Bay, South Africa
Spicy and fine with black cherry and plum fruit. Ripe with spicy and subtle tar notes. Vivid and expressive with nice detail. 92/100

Bouchard Finlayson Kaaimansgat Chardonnay 2012 Overberg, South Africa
Lively and precise with lovely fruit. Notes of citrus and herbs with white peach, too. Great acidity and freshness. 92/100

Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay 2011 Walker Bay, South Africa
Wonderfully toasty and fine with citrus and hazelnuts on the nose. Fresh palate with good focus and subtle oak notes. Fine acidity. Fresh, pure and interesting. 93/100

Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay 2009 Walker Bay, South Africa
Some mealy, bready notes here with a bit of toast and some nuttiness. Fine and fresh but with depth to it, showing apples, pear, citrus and spice. 93/100

Bouchard Finlayson Kaaimansgat Limited Edition 2010 Overberg, South Africa
50% new wood, 50% unoaked. Lively and precise with full flavours allied to freshness. Brilliantly pure with subtle toasty, nutty notes. Fresh, linear and pure. 94/100

Visiting Hemel-en-Aarde

Bouchard Finlayson
Newton Johnson
Hamilton Russell

Wines tasted 03/13  
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