This weekend will see the first ever Pinot Noir Celebration taking place in the Hemel-en-Aarde Wards of the Walker Bay District. The Hemel-en-Aarde has pioneered the production of world-class Pinot Noir in South Africa since the 1970s because of its eminently suitable terroir.
The concept of terroir, although fairly esoteric, is generally understood to be the combination of all natural, external factors which influence the growth cycle of a vine, and the sense of place which this imbues on the finished product. In Burgundy, the traditional home of Pinot Noir, this knowledge and experience gained over 2 000 years of Pinot Noir production, resulted in specific, individual terroirs that are enclosed by stone drywalls. These are known as “climats” and play a significant role in the identity of Burgundian producers.
It is interesting to note that the area previously known as the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley has been divided into three separate wards under the South African Wine of Origin system. This was done to stress the climatic, geological and other differences which set the terroirs apart. While many wards in South Africa cover large areas, the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge are three small adjacent wine producing areas, with a focus on Pinot Noir across a number of producers, mirroring the evolution of “climats” in Burgundy.
What sets the Ridge apart?
Set high up on the lofty Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, Creation benefits from a number of unique characteristics. Here are a few of the most important:
At 300 metres above sea level altitude plays a significant role in the development and intensity of flavours in wine.This continentality results in a diurnal range of at least 12 degrees difference between day and night time temperatures, resulting in excellent natural acid retention.
To achieve an elegant balance between acidity and fruit expression you cannot grow Pinot Noir in a hot place. That’s why our sea breezes are so important. We are only 9 kilometres away from the cool Atlantic Ocean, and when the wind comes from the right direction, it cools the Ridge.
“You cannot plant Pinot on sandy soil,” says Creation cellarmaster, JC Martin. “Pinot Noir kind of likes a clay-type soil – it gives much more structure.” This is because clay soils exhibit the correct mix of nutrients for a healthy canopy, essential in controlling the phenolic ripeness of grapes prior to harvest. Deeper clay soils also allow for better water regulation and more developed root systems.
Says JC: “At Creation our 450 million year old clay derived Bokkeveld shale soils offer not only a wealth of minerals but also excellent water retention; so we seldom have to irrigate once the young vines have settled.”
“Some of the Ridge areas may have more gravel, which will stress the plant more. But we like it when the plant struggles a bit because it means slightly smaller berries: a higher percentage of flavour-rich skin to juice. You want the plant to go really deep to find the water.”
PINOT IN PARADISE
Creation will be offering a very special Pinot tasting for ticket holders to the Pinot Noir Celebration on Saturday, 1 February 2014. We are pleased to announce that we have had an overwhelming response and are now fully booked for this event. However should you wish to visit Creation this weekend, do make your booking for Sunday! Click here to book.
COLLECTING FINE WINE: STARTING A CELLAR
It may seem a daunting task at first, but starting and maintaining your own cellar can be an incredibly rewarding hobby, whether you are a serious connoisseur or merely have the desire to learn about and enjoy wine in the comfort of your own home. A cellar does not have to be extensive or expensive to provide many memorable occasions, however, there are a number of points which should be considered once you have made the decision to start collecting wine. Click here to read more.