De Wetshof Pinot Noir from Robertson takes SA Terroir Wine Award

Chardonnay pioneering wine estate De Wetshof once again showed its ability to also produce quality Pinot Noir when its Nature In Concert Pinot Noir 2010 took top honours in the Pinot Noir category at this year’s Novare SA Terroir Wine Awards. This achievement follows on De Wetshof’s award for Chardonnay two years ago when the estate’s iconic Bateleur 2009 trumped its category in this competition committed to choosing wines reflecting terroir and a sense of place.

Winemaker Peter de Wet (pictured above) said receiving the Novare SA Terroir Wine Award for Best Pinot Noir is of tremendous value to the farm as terroir and site-specific wine production has always been the focus of all aspects of De Wetshof’s viticulture and wine-making activities.

“When my father Danie planted Pinot Noir at De Wetshof 16 years ago it was not only because of our family’s love for Burgundian grape varieties, but also because we wanted to show that a Robertson farm could indeed make a top-class wine made from this classic cultivar,” said De Wet.

“To now win this SA Terroir Wine Award is a crowning achievement for the Nature in Concert wine and Robertson’s ability to produce fine Pinot Noir.”

De Wet also stressed the role renowned American viticulturalist Phil Freese had played in establishing De Wetshof’s Pinot Noir vineyards in 1999.

“Dr Freese’s conviction that the farm indeed had sites suitable for growing Pinot Noir contributed to establishing the vines, and on behalf of the De Wet family, we would like to share this award with him,” he said.

The vines for the Nature in Concert Pinot Noir grown on rocky, slate soils planted on steep south-facing slopes. The high (80%) slate stone component gives the soil a cool surface, with very low water-retention capacity providing the ideal challenging environment for bringing out the best in the elegantly robust yet finicky variety of Pinot Noir.

De Wet said the steep south-facing slope on which the vineyard is situated has proven to be ideal for Pinot Noir. “In summer a fresh southerly breeze from the Cape Agulhas coast has a cooling effect on the vineyards, allowing the grapes to ripen evenly and in perfect balance,” he said.

He describes the wine as having beautiful rich complexities of fresh, full-ripe crispy berries and cherries complemented by pronounced velvety-nutty flavours on the mid-palate leading to smooth tannins on the finish. Maturation in the finest French oak assists in unleashing typical Pinot Noir fruit flavours while maintaining all the characteristics of an elegant wine showing a unique, site-specific character.

“We believe that Pinot Noir can only really be good Pinot Noir if its site of origin leaves a fingerprint on the wine,” said De Wet. “As the SA Terroir Award shows, those rocky slopes of De Wetshof have done exactly that.”

Besides complementing De Wetshof’s portfolio of fine wine, De Wet said the Pinot Noir cultivar plays a profound role in determining the quality of the farm’s Chardonnay vineyards.

“Chardonnay is a poker-face variety, shy to show the conditions it is experiencing such as stress or potential heat damage,” he said. “Pinot Noir, on the other hand, clearly shows any physical condition from the outset, acting as an indicator of general vineyard health. This allows us to act pre-emptively in the vineyard, and having Pinot Noir has helped us to better manage and understand our Chardonnay vines.”