A Trio of Prestigious Hemel & Aarde Valle Producers with a Focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

 

The Strauss & Co wine department will inaugurate Strauss & Co’s April live auction with a session on Sunday 3rd April at 10hh00 by profiling a trio of prestigious producers from Hemel-en-Aarde (“Heaven and Earth”). This illustrious wine valley stretching inward from the coastal enclave of Hermanus is home to Crystallum Wines, Newton Johnson Vineyards and Storm Wines. Strauss & Co will focus on their chardonnay and pinot noir wines.

The Hemel-en-Aarde region near Hermanus is South Africa’s best example of regional focus in wine. Specialising in the production of fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this picturesque valley in Walker Bay is now firmly established as a top address outside of Burgundy. Wines have been produced here since the early 1980’s, but the last decade has boomed with new wine producing techniques, clonal selection, new players and collective focus. All contributing to finer wines and further international recognition.

Southernly located, with close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the Hemel-en-Aarde is one of the coolest, most maritime wine producing areas in the country. The marginal climate, together with the clay-rich soils are perfect for the tricky Pinot Noir variety and also produce incredible, classically styled Chardonnays.

In Decanter’s ‘Top New World Pinot Noirs’ February 2020 edition, Crystallum Cuvée Cinema 2018 received 98/100 points and was placed first. Second was Newton Johnson Seadragon 2017 with 97/100. All three producers are rated as ‘First Growths’ in the Tim Atkin Report.

Crystallum

Based in the Walker Bay region of South Africa, Crystallum is run by brothers Peter-Allan and Andrew Finlayson, 3rd-generation winemakers who focus on Burgundy varieties. Within only a little over 15 years (interestingly the first vintage was a singular Sauvignon in 2007!) this outfit has positioned itself as one of the top proponents of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in South Africa. Awards locally and internationally are in fact unrivalled, and the wines are sold out every year on release.

Lot 5 & 6 | Crystallum Clays Shales Chardonnay 2016 (6 x 750ml)

Low – High Estimate: R6000 – R8000

‘Lots of lasting vibrancy on the nose that is intact and complex. Lemon, flint, salted butter. The palate has a sweet core of fruit – generous, creamy and superbly balanced. Lots of further life and promise to this, although it’s gorgeous now. ‘ – Higgo Jacobs (Feb 2022)

‘One of a number of outstanding Chardonnays produced on the Hemel en Aarde Ridge, albeit from youngish vines, this foudre-aged white is a revelation in 2016. Rich, spicy and compact, showing understated oak, some baking spices and impressive palate length. 2018-25.’ – Tim Atkin MW, SA Special Report 2017, 96/100

Lot 19 & 20 | Crystallum Cuvée Cinéma Pinot Noir 2018 (6 x 750ml)

Low – High Estimate: R7000 – R10 000

In a October 2019 Decanter panel tasting of New World, single-vineyard Pinots, the 2018 Crystallum Cuvée Cinéma came out on top with 98 points. Out of the 100 wines tasted, it was the only wine to be rated ‘exceptional’

The Decanter judges say that for them, ‘a single vineyard is the New World version of a climat in Burgundy’ and singled out Hemel-en-Aarde and Elgin for producing ‘consistently high quality’ wines. This wonderful, finely-crafted Pinot best expresses Peter-Allan Finlayson’s vision and is firmly ensconced as one of SA’s best. The 2018 has attractive, rich notes over earthy complexity and a sumptuous, sensual palate.

Lot 29 & 30  Crystallum Whole Bunch Pinot Noir 2016 (6 x 750ml)

Low – High Estimate: R6000 – R9000

‘Juicy and vibrant expression, showing the whole bunch flavours in a spicy, pure, bright and chewy way. Impressively sprightly after 6 years, the Whole Bunch is no longer being produced, and makes for a great addition to the collection. ‘ – Higgo Jacobs (Feb 2022)

‘A wine that does what it says on the label, this is the first release of this Pinot from the same vineyard as Cuvée Cinéma, fermented with 100% whole bunches. Dense, smoky and quite grippy, it’s something of a geek’s wine, with lapsang souchong notes and savoury tannins. 2019-24.’ – Tim Atkin MW, SA Special Report 2017, 93/100.

Newton Johnson Vineyards

Based in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, it is a family affair at Newton Johnson. Started by Cape Wine Master, Dave and his wife, Felicity, sons Bevan and Gordon took over the reins in the mid-2000s, joined today by Gordon’s wife Nadia. Today Newton Johnson is world-famous for their fine Chardonnays and Pinot Noir. Along with multiple accolades, the Pinot Noir has one of the longest consecutive Platter 5 Stars in history.

Lot 49, 50 & 51 Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2017 (6 x 750ml)

Low – High Estimate: R6000 – R8000

‘From 3 granite vineyards, different aspects, giving 2017 its layers. Wild ferment (as all), barrelled 11 months adds oatmeal biscuit shading to brightly fresh citrus/stonefruit. Lots going on, held together by resonating acidity, for edge, vitality, great length.’ – Platter’s SA Wine Guide 2019, 4.5* (94/100)

‘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. 2019-25.’ – Tim Atkin MW, SA Special Report 2018, 94/100

Lot 56 & 57  Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015 (6 x 750ml)

Low – High Estimate: R7000 – R10000

‘Maintains a uniquely remarkable record of five star ratings – it’s never failed. If Mrs M needs some muscle and Windansea some finesse, and Block 6 perhaps a brush of both, the masterly 2015 blend transcends the three sites in triumph! Pure fruit integrated with succulent acidity, understated tannins and sensitive oaking in an elegant composition. Powerful yet demure.’ – Platter’s SA Wine Guide 2017, 5*

‘A combination of Windansea (50%), Mrs M (30%) and Block 6 (20%), this is always more than the sum of its parts, a brilliant expression of the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Floral, complex and well balanced, with some clover spice from 20% whole bunches, sweet red berry fruit and a long, savoury, complex finish.’ –  Tim Atkin MW, SA Special Report 2016, 96/100.

Lot 65 | Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Windansea 2012 (6 x 760ml)

Low – High Estimate: R9000 – R12 000

Our prestigious Red Wine of the Year, rich, fragrant, warmly sensous 12 has particularly impressive structure (notably a succulent, mineral acidity) supporting the spicy red & black berry fruit. Lively, long-lingering; very satisfying.’ – Platter’s SA Wine Guide 2014,  5*

Storm Wines

After working 12 vintages in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley as winemaker at Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Hannes Storm discovered 2 tiny parcels of land with particularly exceptional terroirs and planted them with Pinot Noir in 2008. 2012 saw the maiden vintage being released and was produced from low-vigour, stony, clay-rich Bokkeveld (‘Buck Veld’) shale soil in the Valley ward. Hannes is now the only producer of Pinot Noir from each of the three appellations in the Hemel-en-Aarde and the Vrede is widely regarded as SA’s benchmark. Just 350 cases were produced, and it offers fine aging potential.

Lot 76 | Storm Wines Vrede Chardonnay 2017 (6 x 750ml)

Low – High Estimate: R6000 – R8000

‘Salted limes, marmalade, buttered rye, lanolin and river pebbles. The palate has subtle flinty notes adding complexity to the matured citrus, with persistent acidity lifting the creamy mouthfeel. Complete, classy, and ready to be enjoyed. ’ – Higgo Jacobs (Feb 2022)

‘Acid levels were high in 2017 – partly because of diurnal variation – so Hannes Storm put this through 80% malolactic. Naturally fermented, it’s a focused, subtle, toasty Chardonnay with good viscosity and noticeable freshness and zip. 2019-23.’ – Tim Atkin MW, SA Special Report 2018, 94/100.

Lot 87| Storm Wines Vrede Pinot Noir 2017 (6 x 750ml)

Low – High Estimate: R7000 – R9000

‘A subtle touch of oak gently perched on top of juicy strawberry and cherry fruit, waiting to integrate. Finesse and complexity on the classy 2017 that has layers of flavour unfolding in the glass. The 2017 is getting better, patience will be awarded.’ – Higgo Jacobs (Feb 2022)

‘Very pale ruby. Marked, bright fruit and floral aromatics, yet with a savoury, spice and flint undertow. Juicy, vibrant and delicate yet structured. Lovely length.’ – Tim Jackson MW, JancisRobinson.com, 17.5/20 (Dec 2019).

Lot 97 & 98 Storm Wines Ridge Pinot Noir 2015 (3 x 750ml)

Low – High Estimate: R4000 – R6000

‘Maiden vintage. Blood orange peel, pomegranate, star anise. Succulent and crunchy, with immaculate life. Chalky tannins, vibrant acidity. This is the most youthful and feminine of the 2015’s showing off the cool site. A personal favourite. ’ – Higgo Jacobs (Feb 2022)

‘Made with Pinot purchased from La Vierge’s substantial holdings on the Ridge, this is the second release of this 150 case bottling. The freshness of the sea breeze influence combines appealingly with the 10% whole bunch spice and redcurrant and black cherry fruit.’ – Tim Atkin MW, SA Special Report 2016, 93/100