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2012 Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley
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Peter Finlayson was the very highly regarded wine-maker at Hamilton Russell for 11 years before starting the first Bouchard Finlayson harvest in February 1991.
The winery and its vineyards are situated in Walker Bay, mid-way between Cape Point and Cape Agulhas (the southern-most point of Africa). The climate is largely influenced by the nearby cold Atlantic Ocean, rendering it one of the coolest wine growing areas in the Cape. The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, home to Bouchard Finlayson, is surrounded and sheltered by a mountain barrier formed by Galpin Peak (810 metres) and the Tower of Babel (1,200 metres), which traps the cloud cover and moisture brought in from the sea by the prevailing wind.
Bouchard Finlayson is greatly respected for its award-winning Pinot Noirs. The wines are far more Burgundian in style than many New World examples and are made without adjustment to sugar or acidity levels. Finlayson believes that great wines are made in the vineyard, not the winery. He is also a firm believer in restricted yields, meticulous attention to detail and a relatively ‘hands-off’ approach in the winery. This is, without question, one of South Africa's leading premium producers.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
Walker Bay is a coastal wine district, located to the south-east of Capetown, near the town of Hermanus (of whale-watching fame).
Walker Bay has a cool, maritime climate. However vineyard virus and small scale production have prevented thsi wine region from competing effectively against the Pinot Noirs from New Zealand.