Elgin Pinot Noir: how is Pinot doing in this cool-climate South African region?

Elgin is one of South Africa’s cool climate wine regions. This apple-growing area first began growing wine grapes in the mid-1980s, with Paul Cluver planting the first commercial vineyards in 1986 and releasing the first Elgin wine in 1990 – a Riesling. Over the years, Elgin has developed a great reputation for Chardonnay, and now Pinot Noir is catching attention. I’ve been tasting Elgin wines since the mid-2000s, and I think there has been quite a leap in quality with Pinot. This tasting was a focus on Elgin Pinot, tasting some of the leading wines to get an idea of how this variety is faring in the cool climate of Elgin. Overall, I was really impressed. I also tasted all these wines live on my Instagram account.

Iona Kroon Monopole Pinot Noir 2018 Elgin, South Africa
13.5% alcohol. This is from the highest block on the farm, and it is fermented with 8% whole bunch after a 7 day cold soak, then aged in a mix of 500 and 300 litre barrels, of which 18% are new. The result is an aromatic, elegant expression of Pinot with some edges. There’s sweet strawberry and cherry fruit with a hint of malty development that adds smoothness to the palate, and then some notes of iodine and dried herbs giving some framing to the fruit. There’s and elegance and harmony to this wine which leads me to suggest you want to drink it now, when it offers so much, rather than cellar it. Very fine. 94/100

Paul Cluver Estate Pinot Noir 2020 Elgin, South Africa
13% alcohol. Appropriately pale in colour, this has an enticing, aromatic nose of strawberries and red cherries, with some distinct savoury notes in the mix: woodspice and cinnamon. The palate is supple and elegant with sweet raspberry and cherry, as well as fine spicy hints and a touch of wood. Very Elgin in style with lovely drinkability, and the savoury notes and tannin add interest. 92/100

Sutherland Pinot Noir 2019 Elgin, South Africa
13.5% alcohol. Nine months’ ageing in French oak. Compact aromatics with strawberry and raspberry as well as some spicy notes. Quite enticing. The palate has sweet cherry and plum fruit with some earth and spice, as well as ripe strawberry. There’s a bit of structure and good acidity, holding everything nicely in place. 92/100

La Brune Pinot Noir 2020 Elgin, South Africa
12.5% alcohol. This wine is made by Nico Grobler, who visited Burgundy and fell in love with it. It’s from 8 year old vines on ferricrete over clay, planted at a high density of 10 000 vines per hectare. 40% whole bunch with a 20 day cold soak, then ageing in untoasted 300 litre barrels of which 60% are new. It’s sweetly aromatic with red cherries, plums and strawberries and shows elegant, silky cherry and strawberry fruit on the palate with some spicy framing but also some slightly dank, mushroom and earth savoury hints on the finish (this was present on two opened bottles). I really like the elegant fruit, but the somewhat musty notes in the background aren’t ideal. 89/100

Oak Valley Groenlandberg Pinot Noir 2020 Elgin, South Africa
13% alcohol. Beautiful aromatics of red cherries and cranberries with a hint of tea and cinnamon, and some fine cedar spice savouriness. The palate is really elegant and drinkable, with silky texture to the sweet red fruits, but also some fine spicy notes adding a lovely savoury framing, meshing well with the sweet red fruit core. This is so elegant, beautifully poised and highly drinkable, although it should develop nicely over the mid-term. 95/100

Lothian Vineyard Selection Pinot Noir 2019 Elgin, South Africa
14% alcohol. Appealing sweet aromatics of strawberry, dried herbs and red cherry, with some spicy, cedary framing. The palate has concentration and focus, with silky cherry and strawberry fruit as well as a bit of savoury contrast, and appropriate structure. Good concentration here, with ripe but well-balanced fruit. Impressive. 94/100

Shannon Vineyards Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir 2018 Elgin, South Africa
13% alcohol. Complex, finely spiced aromatics that are very Elgin, with a dusty, savoury cedar and iodine note alongside fresh cherries and raspberries. The palate has lovely brisk cranberry and cherry fruit, with some sweet stewed strawberry on the mid-palate, and a finish of spice, iron and sour cherry. A stylish, well-structured, drinkable Pinot Noir of real class. 93/100

Elgin Vintners Pinot Noir 2021 Elgin, South Africa
14% alcohol. Partial whole bunch and malolactic in barrel. This may be very youthful for a serious Pinot Noir, but it’s already drinking very well. Appealing red cherry and spice nose leads to a sumptuous, silky palate with a core of red cherry and strawberry fruit that has a liqueur-like richness to it. The palate is smooth with a savoury twist and attractive plum and spice, and a touch of Christmas cake richness on the finish. A lovely, pure, rich example of Elgin Pinot. 92/100

Kershaw Clonal Selection Pinot Noir 2018 Elgin, South Africa
13.5% alcohol. This is benchmark elegant Elgin-style Pinot, with supple, fine red cherry and strawberry fruit finely laced with savoury, spicy notes: there’s a touch of green tea and undergrowth alongside the silky, refined red fruit character, and it finishes long and tapering. Beautiful weight and elegance, with some complexity as well as drinkability. 95/100

Boschendal Elgin Pinot Noir 2018 Elgin, South Africa
14% alcohol. This has an enticing nose of sweet strawberries and cherries with some mulch and undergrowth notes, as well as dried herbs and a touch of wood spice. The palate is juicy and fresh with bright berry fruits and a touch of cedar, already showing some nice development but with the structure and acidity to suggest more is to come. There’s a lovely mellow ease about this wine which has the lovely balance between sweet fruit and spicy savouriness that Elgin does so well. 93/100

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