Tasting the wines of Gabrielskloof and Crystallum, with Peter-Allan Finlayson

Websites: https://www.crystallumwines.com/ https://gabrielskloof.co.za/

Earlier this week I stopped at Gabrielskloof in Bot River, South Africa, for a tasting with Peter-Allan Finlayson. It’s a place I know quite well: I spent 10 days here during the 2018 vintage, so it was nice to be back again. (You can read about this here: https://www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/south-africa/making-wine-at-gabrielskloof-the-final-instalment.)

Gabrielskloof is the winery that was started by Peter-Allan’s father-in-law Bernhard Heyns. When he got married he had no intention of getting involved: he was making his Crystallum wines at Hemelrand with Chris Alheit and others. But in the end, he agreed to move into the cellar with his project, and also two other like-minded producers, Marelise Niemann and John Seccombe. Now he makes Gabrielskloof and Crystallum. It was a little tricky at first because he had to sell the existing Gabrielskloof wines that weren’t entirelty in his style, but now the Gabrielskloof wines are quite brilliant and are a big success. The Crystallum wines are as good as, if not better, than ever (production is now up to 85 000 bottles a year).

Once change since 2018 is the amphora cellar. Above the main cellar there’s a room full of clay pots, made by Yogi de Beer. There are 22 of them. Yogi initially fired them at a lower temperature and they sweated a bit, allowing too much oxygen transmission. But the newer vessels are fired at 1300 C, and are less porous – almost like ceramics. They are also paler in colour.  


Gabrielskloof Amphora Sauvignon Blanc 2023 Western Cape
‘This started out as an experiment,’ says Peter-Allan. ‘I’ve always wanted to push Sauvignon Blanc in a new direction.’ Now it’s a big success and retails at R300. 50% of the Sauvignon comes from Bot River and the other half comes from Olifantsrivier (Eben’s ‘Skurfburg’). Textural, lively and mineral with lovely pear and citrus fruit. So fine and expressive with a fine-grained structure. Not overtly aromatic, but still Sauvignon. 93/100

Gabrielskloof The Landscape Series Elodie Chenin Blanc 2022 Swartland, South Africa
This comes from four vineyards in the Swartland, ranging in age from 38-55 years, 2 in granite and two in ironstone soils. 20% amphora. This is fine, dry and textural with fine citrus, white peach and pear, sitting atop a stony chalky minerality, with a salty twist on the finish. Very fine and expressive. 95/100 (R390 in SA)

Gabrielskloof Whole Bunch Syrah 2022 Bot River, South Africa
10 day whole cluster fermentation, lightly stomped, and then pressed to tank where it finishes fermentation and stays for 10 months. No oak. Supple, energetic and bright with red cherry, raspberry and nice grip, as well as a slight meaty edge. Lovely fruit here: floral and expressive, and fine. 94/100 (R200 in SA)

Gabrielskloof The Landscape Series Syrah on Sandstone 2021 Bot River, South Africa
14% alcohol. 50% whole bunch, fermented in small one-ton bins: Peter-Allen says he gets rubbery reduction if he makes it in larger tanks). Floral and expressive with sweet cherries and plums. Very fine, made in a low extraction style with real elegance. Silky and elegant with a bright red fruits core. Such a wine. 96/100

Gabrielskloof The Landscape Series Syrah on Shale 2021 Bot River, South Africa
The soils here are shale and clay, and the higher clay content means the soil holds water better, and the vines are more vigorous. Made in the same way as the sandstone. Concentrated dark fruits. Floral with some pepper and nice density. There’s some spiciness here. Very fine with lovely weight and focus. 95/100

Crystallum Clay Shales Chardonnay 2022 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, South Africa
This is on the Creation farm, and this block used to be Cabernet Franc (grafted to Chardonnay in 2014) and Merlot (replanted with Chardonnay in the same year). It’s fermented and matured in 300 and 500 litre Stockinger barrels, 10% new. Very fine and textural with lovely flavours of pear and white peach, as well as fine spices. It’s ripe, but it has focus and precision, with a seamless texture. Hints of almond and fine wood, too. So expressive. 96/100

Crystallum Cuvée Cinéma Pinot Noir 2022 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, South Africa
13.5% alcohol. Planted in 2009 right next to the clay shales vineyard, with heavy clay soils. 65% whole bunch. 10 months in barrel, 20% new. Lovely aromatics of fine cherries and spice with some appealing undergrowth and wild herb notes. So lively and expressive with rich flavours but also freshness and complexity. Some spice and iodine. Very fine. 95/100

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