Saurwein: exciting Pinot from South Africa

Jessica Saurwein is getting rave reviews for her small-production Pinots. They are justified.

Jessica Saurwein is getting quite a lot of attention for her Pinot Noirs. She’s been making this wine since 2015. Previously she’d been working doing viticulture and winemaking at Bouchard Finlayson, and then worked there doing sales and marketing. ‘I’d just some out of university, and so this was an ideal opportunity,’ she says. ‘I did vintage in the cellar and worked in sales and marketing.’ She ended up staying for three and a half years, and got to know Peter Allan Finlayson during this time. This friendship was to lead to her starting her own winemaking project.

‘I had known the Kaimansgaat vineyard from student days,’ she says. ‘It was my dream to make wine from here.’ In 2015 Peter Allan gave her 1 ton of grapes and she made three barrels, which she made as naturally as possible. The production has now grown to three tons.

Jessica left her day job when she had a baby in August 2017, so winemaking is now her full time occupation. In addition to the Nom Pinot Noir, she’s now added a Riesling and another Pinot from the Hemel en Aarde valley.

She makes the wines at Landrust on Winery Road, with around 20% new oak, up to 20% whole bunch. In the first vintage she didn’t add anything except sulfur after ferment had finished. In the second year she did more pump overs than punch downs, and added a bit of acid. She feels that the resulting wine is better balanced because the vineyard has lots of potassium in the soil.

Saurwein Nom Pinot Noir 2016 Elandskloof, South Africa
Fermented in two big plastic containers. Relatively pale in colour. There’s a sweet floral character to this: beguiling and detailed. Supple and refined with lovely elegance. There’s a bit of spicy warmth here and real finesse. Silky texture with some fine spiciness. There’s some nice sour cherry hints. Really pretty and supple but with some seriousness. 93/100

Saurwein Nom Pinot Noir 2017 Elandskloof, South Africa
Fermented in stainless steel tanks. Concentrated and dense with focused raspberry and red cherry fruit. Grippy and focused with lovely purity. Ripe, sleek and fine, with some grunt hidden under the lovely berry fruits. There’s real complexity here: primary still but with great potential. Nicely textured with lots of potential for development over the next decade. 95/100

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