Top image: Paul Clüver
Paul Clüver Family Wines, the winery that pioneered viticulture and winemaking in Elgin 35 years ago, reaffirmed its status as a leading South African producer with First Growth status in the latest Tim Atkin South Africa Report, as well as having three wines scoring 95pts and above. The 96pts scores went to Paul Clüver’s Seven Flags Chardonnay 2021 and to the Noble Late Harvest Riesling 2021, with the icon Seven Flags Pinot Noir 2018 attracting 95pts. This year Atkin judged over 2 200 wines, critically reviewing them with scores on the 100pt scale.
According to Paul Clüver, managing director of Paul Clüver Family Wines, this year’s results underscore consistency in viticulture and winemaking as the winery continues to put in above-average performances in a valuable assessment of South African wines, which Atkin has this year done for the 10th consecutive year.
“Top scores of 95pts and over are always a reason for celebration and to feel satisfied at the quality of wine you are putting into the market,” says Clüver. “They vindicate your decisions regarding varietal focus and one’s ability to constantly deliver top-quality wines that express your terroir and site.
“But when we look back at our showing in previous year’s reports and see our standards are being maintained and improving, this is the real value in the reception from critics such as Atkin, a British Master of Wine who is globally recognised as a foremost critic and is known for his incredibly high standard of wine judging.”
On a broader front, Clüver says this year’s Atkin Report bears an important recognition of the quality of South African Pinot Noir.
“Along with ourselves, 18 Cape Pinot Noir producers notched ratings of 95pts and above, and herein lies much to consider,” he says. “Out of South Africa’s 93 000ha under vineyard, only 1 100ha is planted to Pinot Noir. More than half of the grapes from these vines are used for making Cap Classique, making the Pinot Noir grape offering for red wine very limited. Thus, to see 18 wineries achieve ratings of 95pts and above for this noble variety from an international critic who also specialises in Burgundy is something I think we as an industry must give greater recognition to. After decades of trial and error in terms of clones, the identifying of sites, oaking regimes and the general attempts to understand this variety, South Africa is stepping to the fore as a noticeable international Pinot Noir producer.”
Despite this year’s astounding performance in the Atkin report, however, Cape Pinot Noir is struggling to gain acceptance from the international community as one of the country’s finest offerings, one that can stand alongside the best in the world.
“The question of who the world’s best Pinot Noir players are outside of Burgundy raises its head time-and-time again in the international wine critic and media space,” says Clüver. “And here the regions of Central Otago (New Zealand), Oregon (USA), Alto Adige (Italy), Chile and Germany always get a shout-out – on South Africa, the world is silent. Myself and our winemaker and Pinot Noir expert Andries Burger have over the past few years been committed to extensive tastings of international and South African Pinot Noirs and have come to the conclusion that the country deserves a place among the world’s best. To see Atkin confirming this in his latest report furthers the cause of Paul Clüver Family wines in mustering attention for the Cape as a leading producer of this variety.”
Clüver says that due to its premier and mystical status, recognition for quality Pinot Noir can most definitely help in raising the image of a nation’s wine industry as a whole.
“Pinot Noir is arguably one of the most revered and sought-after wines in the world,” he says. “Due to this status, the recognition of Pinot Noir excellence from the Cape will assist in building the premium international wine image the country so desperately needs. Whether we like it or not, the broader world of wine still sees South Africa as a great place for sourcing cheap and cheerful wines, a fact that is not going to help the wine industry to grow in economical terms as well as in relation to our image. However, by having stand-out wines made from known noble fine grapes Pinot Noir – and Chardonnay for that matter – South Africa can grasp the imagination of the wine world, which will elevate our status and reputation as a whole.
“The proof of the pudding is, as they say, in the eating. And the Tim Atkin ratings of Cape Pinot Noir have delivered this proof. Now it is the task of the industry to communicate this to the rest of the world so that we can claim the premium wine status we really do deserve.” Besides these the 95pts and over ratings, seven other Paul Clüver wines achieved ratings of 91pts and higher in the latest Tim Atkin Report: Estate Chardonnay 2021 (93pts), Estate Pinot Noir 2021 (93pts), Estate Riesling 2021 (93pts), Estate Riesling 2022 (93pts), Village Chardonnay 2021 (93pts), Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (92pts) and Sauvignon Blanc 2021 (91pts).