Roland Peens and James Pietersen

SA Pinot Noir is world-class
A celebration of Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir

by Roland Peens – Director

The wines of Burgundy are the hottest wines in the world right now. Prices of the most sought-after ‘Crus’ grew 40% last year, on what were already astonishing market prices. You will need half a million Rand to buy the most expensive wine in the market. Demand for Burgundy is linked partly to the small volumes of their top wines and partly to the high quality that only Burgundy can achieve with Pinot Noir. There seems to be no end to this bull-run as more of the world’s wealthy enter the luxury market.

At the recent Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir Celebration, we discussed the valley’s stature compared to the world of Pinot Noir. There are pockets around the globe that are able to produce special Pinot and compete with Burgundy. In comparing quality, Hemel-en-Aarde scores very well in the most respected world wine publication, the Wine Advocate. Burgundy wines averaged 93 points for the 2016 vintage and Hemel-en-Aarde came in just under 91 points, behind Central Otago and the Ahr in Germany. It seems that our little valley outside Hermanus can produce world-class Pinot Noir.

Back to Burgundy and why it is the benchmark. The vineyards are more than 1000 years old and each period of Burgundy rule refined the quality. The best vineyard sites melted first in Spring as they enjoyed more warmth and attained an extra level of ripeness. Soil types were also considered, dividing the landscape according to how the wines taste. This sensorial map today dictates the price of the wine, along with the dedication shown by the producer and his family.

The amount of Pinot Noir produced in the Hemel-en-Aarde is tiny however and more specialisation is required to reach a wider audience. Anthony Hamilton Russell has been driving the image of the valley internationally for more than 2 decades. Along with Bouchard Finlayson, their collaboration with new producers is a tremendous launchpad for success. Anthony has also assisted in dividing the region into three wards, as the next step in the journey.


The Three Wards and My Three Picks: 

After tasting the Pinots from the beautiful 2017 vintage, we can start seeing homogeneity in the three areas. The clay-rich ‘Valley’ ward, closer to Hermanus, offers broader shoulders and spicy dark fruit. Storm Vrede 2017 reaches for the stars.

Moving to the ‘Upper’ ward, the granite soils offer a finer acidity and intense perfume. Storm and Newton Johnson lead the way, but Bosman vineyards is a relative newcomer and winemaker Corlea Fourie is making great Pinot Noir. In fact, the Bosman Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot 2017 is simply the best value at R160 and shows the true quality of the region.

The ‘Ridge’ at the end of the appellation is higher in altitude and offers a blue-fruited note to the wines. The newest of the wards shows lots of promise, the Creation Art of Pinot 2017 is, however, dazzling! It offers huge depth, power and age-ability with luxurious tannins and floral notes. And it’s worth the thousand Rand price tag.

Wine Cellar will be hosting a tasting of the fine 2017 Pinot Noir vintage in Johannesburg and Cape Town. To book your tickets, click here 


2017 South African Pinot Noir: Defining the variety – R 450
Wednesday, 20 March, Wine Cellar Observatory

2017 will go down as one of the finest modern-day vintages and the early-release Pinot Noirs already show-off its brilliance. As our vineyards age and winemakers hone their craft, expect each vintage of Pinot Noir to gain in quality and purity. We’ll focus on the Hemel-en-Aarde along with a few serious producers from other regions. Highlights are set to include Storm, Crystallum, Creation, Kershaw, Hamilton Russell and more.

Email or book your ticket online.

To order fine wines at Wine Cellar, please visit