Jessica Saurwein is getting rave reviews for her small-production Pinots and the new 2022 releases are the best yet.
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.
I recently tasted the new 2022 releases, and I’ve included notes here together with those from a tasting at Cape Wine in October 2022, and my first tasting of the wines in February 2018 at Gabrielskloof.
Saurwein Nom Pinot Noir 2022 Elandskloof, South Africa
14% alcohol. From the Kaimansgaat vineyard, with shale soils that have some granite, too. High altitude site (700 m) surrounded by mountains. Hand-picked and sorted, with wild ferment after a cold soak. Aged 10 months in French oak (26% new). Powerful aromatics of sour cherry, dried herbs, liquorice and tar with nice intensity. The palate has a core of vivid, well-defined sweet cherry and plum fruit with some raspberry freshness. Finishes taut with a lick of sour cherry. So well defined: youthful but with lots of potential, showing some non-fruit complexity too. 95/100
Saurwein Om Pinot Noir 2022 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, South Africa
14% alcohol. From Place of the Gods Farm, a dryland vineyard 12 km from the sea and lies at 300 m. Granitic soils with quite a bit of clay, clones 115 and 667 planted in 2006. Juicy, bright and focused with lovely raspberry and red cherry fruit, as well as some iron and blood notes. Really intense with fine red fruits and good acidity and structure. Very expressive with fine red fruits and good acidity and structure. Lovely elegance here, allied to structure, with a sour cherry finish. Quite Barolo like, in a good way. 96/100
Older notes (October 2022)
Saurwein Nom Pinot Noir 2021 Elandskloof, South Africa
Nice intensity here with sweet, silky sour cherry fruit and nice fine-grained iron and mineral savouriness. Lovely flesh and texture here: vivid but balanced and quite beautiful. 95/100
Saurwein Nom Pinot Noir 2020 Elandskloof, South Africa
Ripe and textured with sweet strawberry and cherry fruit with sour cherry and plums. This is nicely textured: quite ripe but well balanced. Notes of dried herbs on the finish, as well as fine spices. 94/100
Saurwein Nom Pinot Noir 2019 Elandskloof, South Africa
Jessica describes this as an odd vintage: riper but with lower alcohol. ‘This vineyard needs a bit more ripeness: if you pick it early it doesn’t have the opulence that it needs.’ Nice savoury twist to the fine-grained structure, with some dried herbs, sour cherry and plum fruit. Getting mellow and textural with a sour cherry edge to the long finish. 94/100
Saurwein Om Pinot Noir 2021 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, South Africa
Direct and full with nice intensity. Juicy and vivid with iron and meat as well as sweet black cherry and red berry fruit. Lovely focus and intensity here. 95/100
Saurwein Om Pinot Noir 2018 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, South Africa
A very early pick. So fresh and expressive with appealing cherry and plum fruit as well as sour cherry and redcurrant. Nicely structured with good fruit that’s still quite primary, supported by nice acidity and tannins. 95/100
Saurwein Chi Riesling 2021 Elgin, South Africa
Two vineyards. Casey’s Ridge (60%), 10 km from the sea at 300 m with red slate soil, and De Rust (40%), further inland with yellow weathered Bokkeveld shale soils. This was a challenging vintage with some rain. There’s a slight earthy edge to the palate, which has lively citrus and some apple notes. Good acid line but I’m not a fan of the earth and mushroom character. 86/100
Sauerwein Chi Riesling 2022 Elgin, South Africa
Lively and vibrant with lovely pear and citrus fruit, with a touch of apricot. This has high acidity and a juicy quality, with a touch of sweetness. Very fine with lovely floral fruitiness. 94/100
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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