‘South Africa produces some of the finest New World Pinot Noir. If I had to select a country that comes closest to achieving the heights of the Côte d’Or (and…

South Africa produces some of the finest New World Pinot Noir. If I had to select a country that comes closest to achieving the heights of the Côte d’Or (and why not compare yourself with the apparent best) then it would probably be South Africa.’ – Neal Martin, 2018

This is high praise indeed. As Neal Martin says, he’s ‘spoilt rotten’ when it comes to Pinot Noir. Neal singles out the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and the passionate young winemaking talent that have made a success of it. The combination of maturing vineyards, exceptional vintage conditions and growing know-how creates the perfect storm.

Lately, we have been touting the wonders of the 2017 vintage and highlighting the vintage’s purity, elegance and clarity. It is especially evident in our Pinot Noirs and the latest must-have wines from the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde benchmark – Newton Johnson.

The 2017 Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Chardonnay is particularly exciting. Gordon and Nadia stepped up their game in 2017 and we think it offers stellar value for such a benchmark wine. It is layered and complex with astute oaking and its fine, detailed finish takes this one up a notch.

Pinot Noir is infamously picky, but the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley has become one of the finest Pinot producing regions in the New World. While the Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir is consistently one of SA’s finest examples, the 2017 is ethereal. The vineyards have now crossed the 12-year-old threshold and we see a tad more flesh in the structure of the crystalline 2017.

We must remind you that these are limited and usually sell out in a flash.

Tasting notes:

Newton Johnson, Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2017 – R 310 
Three sites on the farm – two facing north, the other south – supply the fruit for this consistently impressive Chardonnay. Full malolactic gives the wine good weight and texture, complemented by toasty oak, baking spice flavours and pithy freshness. Drink: 2019-25. – Tim Atkin MW, 94/100

The 2017 Family Vineyards Chardonnay is a blend of three vineyards, both north- and south-facing, on more clay-rich soils than the Southend Chardonnay. This has more richness and depth on the nose than the Southend, featuring dried honey, white peach and light honeysuckle scents that waft temptingly from the glass. The palate is well balanced with topical tones – guava, passion fruit and a touch of yellow plum – and a fine thread of acidity on the persistent finish. There is weight but not heaviness to this Chardonnay, which is a real crowd-pleaser. – Neal Martin, 92/100

Newton Johnson, Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2017 – R 370 
Windansea, Seadragon and Mrs M are the three vineyard sources of this brilliant Pinot Noir. Showing a hint of whole bunch spice, it’s a pale, floral, balletic wine that pirouettes across the palate, with notes of wild herbs and textured red fruits. Drink: 2019-26. – Tim Atkin MW, 95/100

The 2017 Family Vineyards Pinot Noir comes from the three main vineyards on the estate and saw 11 months in barriques with an extended élevage in stainless steel to enhance integration. It has a very attractive bouquet of red cherries, red plum and pressed rose petals. The palate is medium-bodied, showing impressive weight in the mouth while maintaining freshness. The 20% whole-cluster fruit adds just a little undergrowth element on the finish, completing what is a very fine Pinot Noir from Newton Johnson. – Neal Martin, 91/100


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