Tasting The Crystallum Whole Bunch Pinot Noir 2019 – A Truly Characterful Expression…

We all know Peter-Allan and Andrew Finlayson make some of the prettiest and accomplished Pinot Noirs in South Africa. With their family heritage and know how engendered in them by their father Peter Finlayson, top Pinot and Chardonnay has always been part of their DNA.

But when it comes to their Whole Bunch Pinot Noir cuvee, this small production endeavour has always been a vehicle for experimentation. Some drinkers, like myself, have certainly become besotted with previous vintages like the 2016 and 2018, but equally, I do realise it can be quite a divisive wine stylistically. In my mind, it probably comes down to how much French Burgundy one drinks and also from which domaines, which will decide your proclivity.

The 2019 was fermented using only native yeasts in small open top vessels. 100% whole bunches were employed. The wine spent a total of six weeks on the skins after which it went into French and Hungarian oak barrels (25% new) for 11 months ageing.

Crystallum Whole Bunch Pinot Noir 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.6% Abv.

pH 3.52 | TA 5.3 g/l | Total SO2 46 mg/l | RS 2.5 g/l | Only 1219 bottles

What a complex and intricate wine with aromatics that combine the best of the local terroir with fabulous whole bunch sapidity and minerality. Combine these notes with wild strawberry, cranberry, sun-dried cherry, bramble berry and sappy wood spice and you have the makings of a wonderful Pinot. The palate starts off a little raw, grippy and tight but with a little air quickly shows round supple notes of delicious black cherry, hoisin plum sauce, fresh fennel and spicy bramble berry fruits. The Whole Bunch has always been a bit of an outlier but wow, what an incredibly characterful wine. All the Whole Bunch wines normally need a bit of extra time to come around but in 2019, yet again, Peter-Allan knocks it out the park! Drink from 2022 to 2032+

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Crystallum wines are distributed in the UK by Liberty Wines.

Fine Wine Safari New Release Notes – Tasting The Maiden Release Crystallum Litigo Pinot Noir 2019…

The Litigo Pinot Noir is an impressive new release for Peter-Allan and Andrew Finlayson after their Bona Fide cuvee was not made into a single vineyard wine but blended away into the very impressive Peter Max 2019. I can’t remember if I knew this fact or not earlier in the year when Peter-Allan hosted a new release tasting dinner in London on the banks of the Thames, but it certainly explains in hindsight the extra depth, precision and concentration evident on the Peter Max 2019!

The new Litigo Cuvee from the Overberg.

The maiden vintage Litigo is made from seven year old vines sourced from Crystallum’s very own Shaw’s Mountain Vineyard just outside the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. The Litigo, meaning ‘discussion’ in legal terms, is a wine made in partnership with lawyer Eben van Wyk. Some cuvees come and go, such as the Paradisum Syrah from the Swartland, but I think this is certainly a wine to watch as the vines slowly notch up a little more age.

The wine was fermented using only native yeasts in stainless steel tanks using a 20% whole bunch component with the rest de-stemmed but left intact as whole berries. The wine spent a total of four weeks on the skins after which it went into French and Hungarian oak barrels (30% new) for 11 months before bottling.

Crystallum Litigo Pinot Noir 2019, WO Overberg, 13.6% Abv.

pH 3.60, 13.67% Abv., 5.0 g/l TA, Total sulphites 46 mg/l, Residual sugar 1.7 g/l.

When initially opened, the aromatics were rather broody and foresty, dominated by bramble berry fruits, red currants and wild strawberries. But chilling the bottle down ever so slightly and affording it a little more time to breath and open its shoulders, the wine really does blossom into something quite beautiful. The aromatics are slightly wild and spicy with notes of red cherries, strawberries and earthy mulberry notes embellished with hints of dried baking herbs. There is subtle spice nuances, an attractive violet and rose petal perfume but no real evidence of the 20% whole bunch component or any overt wood spice notes from the 30% new oak, just harmonious integration. The palate is impressively silky and sleek with beautifully pure refined tannins, a light to medium bodied mouthfeel weight and delicate, integrated earthy red berry and pomegranate fruit notes enlivened by soft fresh acids and a seamless finish. One can’t say this wine has the most mineral of profiles but certainly elegance and finesse are the order of the day. A really gentle, generous wine that speaks softly and is very amiable. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8+ years. (Only 1,264 bottles were produced)

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Peter-Allan Finlayson Unveils Some of His New Releases from Crystallum and Gabrielskloof in London…

Maybe it’s because Peter-Allan is the third generation of wine farmers in the Cape or maybe it’s just because he is just very intelligent, but few wine brands have been managed as professionally as Crystallum in global markets since the first Sauvignon Blanc was bottled in 2007.

Now focusing solely on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Peter-Allan was recently in London to unveil some of his new creations. But the secret of Crystallum’s massive success in London can be attributed to a combination of factors that aspiring brand owners should take note of. Firstly, he has a committed and highly professional distributor in the UK with Liberty Wines; the quality of the entire range has remained impressively high from day one; the pricing has been very constant and conservative, rising only very modestly over the past 12-13 years; this price stability and quality has built the brand a strong on-trade restaurant / sommelier following in the fine dining establishments of London.

Add this all up and you have a brand that sells out within a few months of arriving adding further to the all round collectability of the entire range.

 

Gabrielskloof Elodie 2018 Chenin Blanc, WO Swartland

Fermented and aged in old oak barrels, this is just classic intense old bush vine Chenin Blanc from two vineyards of 43 and 45 years old made in a minimalist hands off style. Oozes class and character with aromatics of fynbos, crunchy yellow orchard fruits and wet straw with an intense palate of white peach, granitic mineral spice, toasted almonds and pithy dried orange peel. Lovely definition and length. This is up there with some of the best old vine Chenin Blancs in South Africa.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Crystallum Clayshales Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5 Abv.

Another superb rendition of this single vineyard wine from Ridge fruit that perfectly captures the cool, crystalline lemon and lime pastille fruit characters of Chardonnay grown at higher altitude. There are lovely white blossom and honey suckle notes with the most subtle kiss of white toast, vanilla pod spice and white peach. Still very youthful, but already the 2019s have a very impressive fruit/acid balance and a wonderfully integrated, harmonious honeyed leesy finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Crystallum The Agnes Chardonnay 2019, WO Western Cape, 13.5 Abv.

A beautiful expressive blend of Hemel-en-Aarde and Overberg Chardonnay fruit. The nose displays a wonderful saline, briney, taut mineral expression with notes of lime peel, lemon rind, honeydew melon and white peach. Restrained and focused on the palate entry, this is a very grown up, classy, serious Agnes that shows incredible restraint, minerality and mouth watering green apple crunch on the finish. Wow! This is so, so delicious. Crystalline pure Crystallum at its best! Bravo Peter-Allan!

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Crystallum Peter Max 2019, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

A blend of four vineyards, three from the Hemel-en-Aarde and one high altitude Elandskloof vineyard. The nose speaks of old world Pinot Noir with classical mineral restraint, black bramble berries and earthy black currant with sweet, freshly cut straw aromatics. The palate is wonderfully crystalline and pure underpinned by a mouth watering acidity, fabulous varietal intensity, crunchy red berry energy and the most harmonious silky sleek texture. Hard to imagine how you could make a better Pinot Noir at this price point.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Other wines tasted:

Crystallum Mabalel 2018 Pinot Noir – 94+/100 GSMW

Crystallum Whole Bunch 2018 Pinot Noir, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 14.2% Abv.

The 2018 Whole Bunch Pinot Noir marks the second release of this initially experimental wine made from fruit sourced in the Cuvee Cinema vineyard in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and the Shaw’s Mountain Vineyard. Fermented using 100% of whole bunches, the result is possibly one of Peter-Allan’s most mesmerising creations yet. The aromatics show the best of both worlds with a delicious pure black and red berry fruit concentration, black currant compote, black cherry and red currant notes with subtle hedgerow and underbrush complexity together with the classic whole bunch nuances that offer extra sapidity and a stalky mineral spice. The whole bunch component definitely adds the extra magic that elevates this wine into the ranks of truly special New World Pinot Noirs that firmly tip their hats towards the masters of Burgundy. There is boldness and an extra confident swagger, opulence but also controlled mineral spicy restraint all packaged with an incredibly supple, seamless, harmonious tannin texture. You can drink this wine now but with the maiden 2016 still showing an incredibly youthful glow, it would be a shame not to bury some of these in the cellar for 8 to 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gabrielskloof Landscape Series Syrah On Sandstone 2017 – 96/100 GSMW

The wines were presented alongside an incredible tasting menu at newly opened Sam’s Riverside Restaurant, the new venue for the famous Sam’s Brasserie that used to be in Chiswick, West London. The food was truly outstanding and helped cap off a superb evening of fine dining and wine.

Peter-Allan with host and restaurant owner Sam Harrison.

Sam’s Riverside

1 Crisp Walk

Hammersmith

London

W6 9DN

Crystallum and Gabrielskloof are distributed in the UK by Liberty Wines.

Peter-Allan Finlayson and Crystallum Release Their First 100% Whole Bunch Pinot Noir…

When I visited Peter-Allan Finlayson last March at his cellar we tasted through all his delicious 2016 whites and reds before finishing off with something very special… his first 100% whole bunch Pinot Noir 2016 made from a tiny portion of the grapes from his famed Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge Cuvee Cinema vineyard.

Only 629 bottles of this impressive wine were produced.

Crystallum Whole Bunch Pinot Noir 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, Walker Bay, 14% Abv.

Quite a broody, almost opaque black cherry colour, this wine is certainly stand apart from Peter-Allan’s other Pinot Noirs. The aromatics are piercing, intensely lifted, and positively fill the room with notes of sappy black cherry, leafy black current, cigar ash, dusty minerality and a resinous, lapsang black tea pungency. The smokey fruit opulence is embellished by attractively fragrant notes of musk, pink stick candy and sugar dusted strawberry bon bons. The palate is beautifully relaxed and at ease, showing wonderful sappy, spicy, brambly red fruits, cherry herbal tea infusions, waxy ruby grapefruit skins, a hint of pleasantly piquant vermouth bitterness and a long, fleshy, creamy finish. There is more tension, sappy stalk spice and peppery textural notes than the other cuvees, but it is pulled off so expertly that one wonders why Peter-Allan does not make all his wines in this style. This is a slightly more sophisticated expression of Pinot Noir that will hold massive appeal for Burghounds and Pinotphiles. Enjoy this deliciously complex wine now with food, or age for another 10 to 12+ years. This is going to be a future unicorn wine for sure! Bury a few bottles away.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Building A New South African Legacy ~ The Iconic Wines of Peter-Allan Finlayson and Crystallum…

On my recent trip to the Cape in March, I paid an important visit to the Gabrielskloof Winery in the Bot River, home to not only the Gabrielskloof Wines but also Peter-Allan Finlayson’s Crystallum wines. 

As a supporter of Peter-Allan’s wines from the very beginning, I’ll never forget his big frame manning the small 1.5 meter long bar top counter at the Wines of South Africa tasting, displaying his 2007 white Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnays, and his 2008 Peter Max and Cuvee Cinema Pinot Noirs from the Walker Bay. I recognised the quality immediately and guided numerous potential importer / agents to his stand to taste with view to finding him an agent and UK importer. Liberty Wines were the lucky fellows in the end.


Fast forward to 2017, and I have just returned from tasting his 8th red vintage of Pinot Noir. Peter-Allan is building a true legacy indeed, just as his father did before him at Bouchard-Finlayson. But I loved reading Crystallum’s philosophy in their own words…

“We seek to produce classic wines in a new world context that reflect a traditional, age-old way of working coupled with the new world vineyards which we source our fruit from. The only varieties that we work with are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with multi vineyard blends and single vineyard wines making up the collection.” ~ Andrew and Peter-Allan Finlayson, the team behind Crystallum.

The Crystallum Pinot Noirs are fermented in small stainless steel tanks and aged in French oak sourced from a single Burgundian cooper. The barrels are stored in a straw bale cellar and left for circa 16 months before bottling.


Crystallum Mabalel Pinot Noir 2016, Elandskloof, 14 Abv.

This pretty wine shows spicy sappy lift from 10% whole bunch fermentation. The wine is bright, lifted, sweet fruited and attractively sappy showing cranberry, cherry fruits with cedary oak spice and a mineral, gravelly finish. There’s definitely a sweet quince exoticism, that’s quite tantalising, leading you to a super fresh, long, vibrant Pinot Noir finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Crystallum Cuvee Cinema Pinot Noir 2016, Hemel-En-Aarde Ridge, 14 Abv.

This is a beauty, made from Pinot clones 115 and 667. Again, like the Mabalel Cuvee, there are wonderful bright fleshy sweet cherry fruits with a thick underlay of wild forest strawberries, red musky perfume, dusty powdery tannins and textured fine grained grip. There is such alluring, elegant concentration and long fleshy finish of blood oranges and pomegranate vibrancy. Very classy indeed. Very impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Such a wonderful visit and lunch at Gabrielskloof with Peter-Allan, joined by fellow Zoo Buscuit John Seccombe and Non biscuit Viking, Donovan Rall, who’s own new releases will be reviewed separately in the near future. Thanks chaps! 

Fine Wine Lunch with Peter-Allan Finlayson of Crystallum Wines…

Yesterday I managed catch up with one of my favourite producers in the Cape, Peter-Allan Finlayson. Over from South Africa for his UK importer’s tasting earlier this week, I took this opportunity to taste through a selection of older vintages of Crystallum and also swop wine trade gossip over some fabulous red and white Burgundies matched with amazing 1 Star Michelin food at the Harwood Arms.


Clay Shales Chardonnay 2013, WO Overberg ~ Pale lemon straw colour, the nose is rich, opulent and fresh with pretty notes of waxy lemons, yellow citrus zest, and smokey incense. The palate is both broad and textural, yet precise and expressive, unfurling layers of lemon curd, lemon cream biscuits, dusty chalky minerality, and tart pineapple pastille fruits. Plenty of tension and no shortage of vibrant acids. Lovely length and developing beautifully in bottle. (Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Other wines enjoyed over lunch…


Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2007 – 95/100 GS

Domaine Dujac Morey St Denis 1er Cru Mont Luisants Blanc 2011 – 96/100 GS

Savigny Les Beaune Emmanuel Rouget 1997 – 93/100 GS (made by Henri Jayer)

Domaine Jean Marie Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Combe aux Moines 2007 – 94/100 GS

George Lignier Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 2002 – 94+/100 GS

Epic Quail dish with black pudding scotch egg
Beautifully prepared lamb