If you were to offer Miles Raymond a bottle of 1982 Petrus, I would suspect he would change his mind. However, when the lead character of the Hollywood film Sideways made this remark, he was really making a jibe at the over-produced, easy-to-make, easy-to-drink, generic, sweet, simple expressions of merlot that we all know and avoid.
Instead, Miles and I pursue the ‘haunting and brilliant and subtle’ flavours of the temperamental, thin-skinned grape pinot noir. Growing pinot noir is notoriously difficult. In cold climates, there is a risk of under-ripeness; in hot climates the grapes ripen too quickly, preventing the development of complex flavour compounds.
There is a great deal of pinot noir being made in warm-climates. As these are cheaper than Burgundian expressions, I popped a bottle yesterday in sincere hope that I would find something charismatic.
Newton Johnson, Walker Bay Pinot Noir, Upper Hemel-En-Aarde Valley, South Africa 2012
100% matured in French Oak, pH 3.5, residual sugar 1.9, alcohol 13.95%
Light-mid ruby colour. Sour cherries and raspberries on the nose. A subtle touch of manure and some thyme. Lovely acidity on the palate with buckets of red fruit. Sweetness on the mid-palate (which is not a bad thing as it is balanced by the acidity).
Conclusion: I enjoyed this. It had some of those herbal aromas that you remember for days to come. However, you can tell that this is Newton Johnson’s more simple pinot . The palate is fruit driven, forward and slightly sweet. I would love to try their ‘family vineyards’ pinot noir to see how it compares. 88 points (BP)
Learning Point: Jancis Robinson is, as usual, correct when she says about South African pinot noir: ‘the coastal regions show promise.’