Let’s be honest, South Africa is not the easiest place in the world to make great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While Pinot Noir is the original heart break variety, Chardonnay too has hit some pretty solid glass ceilings quality wise in the various cool climate regions that have had a degree of success with these two varieties.
So much more it seems is required to make great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay than merely a ‘suitable terroir.’ Clonal material, soil types, careful canopy management, picking dates, type of cooperage, length of oaking etc., and so the list goes on. Even with all of the above done correctly, you still need a massive amount of winemaking knowhow, plenty of luck, a forgiving vintage and then a whole bunch more luck. Cracking the secrets of these two varieties has not come easy – not in South Africa nor in other “New World” producing nations.
But a handful of producers seem to be on the cusp of producing wines that can be considered “next level” when tasted along side top international benchmarks from France, New Zealand or California. One such producer is Creation Wines in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. Originally from Switzerland, JC Martin together with his South African wife Carolyn (nee Finlayson), bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for their 2007 harvest. Their Walker Bay estate now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focusing mainly on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
JC Martin was back in London recently to show off his new release 2018s along side some impressive 2017 reds and whites.
Creation Reserve Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.
Made from a 18 year old single vineyard and aged 11 months in oak and then blended together before spending 6 months in stainless steel before bottling. The aromatics show subtle wood spice, boxwood, stemmy sap, biscuity lees and fabulous lemon peel notes. Such beautiful linear tension, white citrus zest, crisp crystalline acids and a really harmonious, balanced fruit length. Superb vitality.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Guests attending JC’s masterclass tasting at 67 Pall Mall.
Creation Art of Chardonnay 2017, 13.5 Abv.
Also from a 18 year old single vineyard but from plants that show the most balanced growth. A much more creamy, deep, broody nose with leesy biscuit notes, green melon preserve, grapefruit zest and lemon cordial. Incredible subtlety, freshness, and a low pH 3.3 feel with super taut acidity, plump fleshy mid palate and a suave, stylish length punctuated by a spicy vanilla pod and oak spice kiss. A very Grand Vin.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Creation Art of Chardonnay 2018, 13.3 Abv.
Soft freshly baked white bread, green mango, lemon cordial, honey drizzled brioche and ground vanilla pod spice. Super tight and reserved but ultimately one of Creation’s most expressive, characterful wines. Less is almost always more! Fabulous sweet – sour acidity, green citrus crunch and a long, linear, focused finish. Really very regal expression of South African Chardonnay.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Creation Reserve Pinot Noir 2018, 13.4 Abv.
Wonderful brightness, lift and exotic pomegranate wildness that is so suave, elegant and super complex with bramble berry, stem sap, plum skins and blueberry reduction. The palate is very tight, creamy, virtually seamless and ultra polished with a superb harmony and equilibrium. Really love this wine and it’s incredible value for money equation.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Creation Reserve Pinot Noir 2017, 13.5 Abv.
Aromatics of savoury earthy black cherry, blueberry and bramble berry spice. Very serious, focused and compact wine displaying sappy dusty mineral notes, black olive and pithy black cherry power. A delicious, quality, punchy Pinot Noir with incredible finesse and great regional and varietal typicity.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Creation Emma Pinot Noir 2017, 13.5 Abv.
A barrel selection by Emma, JC and Caroline’s 17 year old daughter from the Art of Pinot Noir vineyard barrels. A deliciously dark, broody, somber nose of sappy black berry, black cherry, spicy pithy plum and structured depth that aspires to red Burgundy as it’s raison d’être. Definitely more restrained and reserved than the Art but also quite seductive.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Creation Emma Pinot Noir 2018, 13.3 Abv.
First impressions are lasting impressions and this one is an absolute gem! Emma has done good and this selection is going to put a bit of pressure on Dad! Pure, dense and much more complete than the 2017, this wine is deliciously opulent, expressive, complex and silky with pomegranate, blood orange, red plum and the most seamless balance and focused length. I love this wine and it’s precision. Very very smart! Certainly one of the best Pinot Noirs produced in South Africa.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
These wines are distributed by Bibendum Wines in the UK. Art Series available in UK direct from Creation Wines.