Tesselaarsdal Wines Pinot Noir 2017
Probably the best Tesselaarsdal to date, the 2017 has greater depth, structure and plushness of palate than 2016 (and even 2015) without sacrificing the clean, lifted blue fruit that is a characteristic of the best Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge Pinot Noir. This is a wine with the tight minerality of the old-world and the pure sumptuous fruit of the new-world.
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Berene Sauls has exceeded all expectations with Tesselaarsdal. In more than one respect, Tesselaarsdaal is a breakthrough. Formerly employed by Hamilton Russell Estates and mentored by Anthony Hamilton Russell, not only is the first wine project for Berene, but importantly it is the first wine project wholly-owned by a member of a “previously disadvantaged community” in the Hemel-en-Aarde area and, indeed, the Overstrand. The wine is named after the historic rural hamlet Tesselaarsdal, not far from Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, where Berene was born. It was at Tesselaarsdal where Berene’s ancestors once lived as freed slaves on land bequeathed to them in 1810 by former East India Company Settler, Johannes Tesselaar. The naming of her first wine appropriately honors her roots. Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir and Chardonnay continue the legacy of the Sauls and the Tesselaarsdal farm.
With an important wine renaissance in full swing, impressive red and white bargains abound in South Africa. The country has a particularly long and rich history with winemaking, especially considering its status as part of the “New World.” In the mid-17th century, the lusciously sweet dessert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Since then, the South African wine industry has experienced some setbacks due to the phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s and political difficulties throughout the following century.
Today, however, South Africa is increasingly responsible for high-demand, high-quality wines—a blessing to put the country back on the international wine map. Wine production is mainly situated around Cape Town, where the climate is generally warm to hot. But the Benguela Current from Antarctica provides brisk ocean breezes necessary for steady ripening of grapes. Similarly, cooler, high-elevation vineyard sites throughout South Africa offer similar, favorable growing conditions.
South Africa’s wine zones are divided into region, then smaller districts and finally wards, but the country’s wine styles are differentiated more by grape variety than by region. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is the country’s “signature” grape, responsible for red-fruit-driven, spicy, earthy reds. When Pinotage is blended with other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir (all commonly vinified alone as well), it is often labeled as a “Cape Blend.” Chenin Blanc (locally known as “Steen”) dominates white wine production, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc following close behind.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”