There are currently 416 Masters of Wine globally, living and working in 31 countries. We were delighted to have no less than 42 (some 10%) of these influential experts visiting South Africa this week. They regularly judge wine competitions, present wine courses, preside over tastings and assess some of the world’s finest private cellars.

At Creation, we hosted a Master Class on South African Pinot Noir. It was organised by Dr Cathy van Zyl (MW) and led by Karin Visser, a Cape Wine Master, who did her thesis on South African Pinot Noir. Three flights of four Pinot Noirs from different regions and twelve producers were tasted. Comments were about the quality and the context of South African Pinot Noir. Here is what Karin had to say: “South Africa has made huge strides in its production of Pinot Noir. The varietal has found the correct sites after the liberation from the quota system in former times. And with the ability to grow virus-free vines (such as at Creation), aged Pinot Noir vines are an exciting reality in the making. I expect huge things from our Pinot Noir in the future!”

The occasion included a tour of our Art of Pinot Noir vineyard which was led by Dr Erna Blancquaert, a researcher from Stellenbosch University. During the vineyard tour she explained the relevance of science to better understand the interaction between grapevine and its biome. She also spoke about the ClimaVin climate change project, mapping and using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to extrapolate wine scores to predict the quality of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Erna works with several Stellenbosch University Master’s students, including pruning expert Luca Orselli, who shared the findings of his MSc thesis which investigates how light quantity and temperature modulate phenolic structure. Our cellarmaster Jean-Claude (JC) Martin was present to answer questions about the oldest South African virus-free Pinot Noir vineyard block planted at Creation, the biodiversity of our region and its impact, the favourable climatic conditions and why plant health is vital to producing quality grapes. Vititec uses Creation cuttings taken during pruning as a source of clean, virus-free material for the South African wine industry.

We then moved to the GEN-Z Chardonnay vineyard with Francois Viljoen and Emma Carkeek as our guides. The GEN-Z project is a network of 60 mini-demonstration sites within commercial vineyards. These demonstration plots help to gather information about clonal expression, rootstock and cultivar performance under different conditions by a collection of grapevine and weather data supplied by advanced weather stations. Information is then fed back to producers at the demo sites in field day sessions, which helps to make more informed viticultural decisions. The producers support this project with Vinpro/Vititec.

Working with scientists helps us educate all facets of our team, from viticulture to our cellar door and tasting room.

The Masters of Wine were excited about the quality of South African Pinot Noir and the innovation happening in our viticultural landscape. They were also interested in discovering how we are working with scientists across the world to secure the future of the vine. Following their morning session, they were treated to a well-deserved and super healthy lunch in accordance with our philosophy of wine and wellness.

Among the many questions fielded by JC was whether there is still space in this valley to plant more Pinot Noir. His answer covered the suitable climatic conditions. “We are privileged in many ways: we have winter but not spring frost; we generally do not have summer thunderstorms, and we have very little disease pressure due to the Cape Doctor, the prevailing southeasterly wind.” Naturally, discussions about our ancient soils and cool climate were also in the mix.

Creation’s fine wine alchemy is a rare blend of art, science, our people and a sense of place. We love to share this with our guests. It was such a pleasure hosting these prominent Masters of Wine – we hope you’ll be visiting us soon again!