Ladies of the Grape Cultivate the Rise of SA Pinot Noir

A fine wine merchant celebrates women winemakers on International Pinot Noir Day 18 August

The last decade has seen a considerable shift in the planting and production of Pinot Noir in South Africa and international wine critics are taking note, heralding SA Pinot Noir as some of the finest and most evocative in the world. South Africa has much to celebrate on International Pinot Noir Day on 18 August.

According to British Master of Wine Tim Atkin, “the high quality of the best Cape Pinots is the single biggest achievement of the modern South African wine industry.” And UK based wine critic and author, Neal Martin, concurs: “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.”

Just in time for International Pinot Noir Day, we spoke to Jolette Steyn, Head of Fine Wine Sales at leading wine merchant about SA’s ladies of the grape making magic with this most captivating and complex of cultivars.

Q: Jolette, you’re in charge of fine wine sales at, please tell us a bit about your background and the path that led you to Wine Cellar fine wine merchants?

A: My love for travel, languages and the outdoors led me to study BSc and MSc in Oenology and Viticulture in SA and Europe. For about a decade, I was a full-time winemaker before I started in the ways of a wine merchant at Wine Cellar fine wine merchants. When I’m not tasting, selling or buying wines, I make wine under my own wine label, started in 2018. I love the energy and ingenuity of the people in the wine industry, and so cannot imagine myself anywhere else.

Q: What is it that you love most about Pinot Noir wines?

A: Pinot Noir is among the most ancient grape varieties. In its youth it offers up intense red fruited purity and a juicy acidity. As the wine ages, it gains in complexity, and develops savoury and earthy notes that elevates it to something other worldly. Whilst it can be a fickle grape to grow and manage, it reflects its origins clearly and honestly. For this reason, the expression of Pinot Noir from Hemel-en-Aarde, Burgundy or California, is completely unique and cannot be made anywhere else. At its best, it marries elegance and finesse with great power and complexity. You can sit over a glass of Pinot Noir for hours or even days and continue to find something new as it unfurls in the glass.

Q: It’s also Women’s Month this month! Please highlight the SA Pinot Noirs you most enjoy,
made by woman winemakers?

A: Natasha Williams and Corlea Fourie of Bosman Wine; Jessica Saurwein of Saurwein; Nadia Newton Johnson of Newton Johnson and Catherine Marshall of Catherine Marshall Wines.

Q: What will you be drinking on International Pinot Noir Day this year?

A: Harmand-Geoffroy Gevrey-Chambertin 2017, Saurwein Om Pinot Noir 2019 and Champagne Drappier Brut Rose NV (made from 100% pinot noir).

Q: What does a day in the life of Jolette Steyn look like at Wine Cellar fine wine merchants?

A: My life is wine, wine, wine. There is never a dull moment, and it’s ever-evolving, so keeps me on my toes. I start the day early with coffee and exercise. In a perfect world I then read up on wine and investment news from across the globe before work starts; plan and write the wine offers from our imports portfolio and keep tabs on new shipments coming in. Interspersed with this, producers come and show their wines, we host or attend wine tastings, lunches or dinners, brainstorm new projects for Wine Cellar and fine-tune our service offering. Wine events often last into the evenings and so it is rarely an 8-5 job. I carve out time to check in on my own wines every other week or so (depending on the season). My English beau/my partner, Tom, also works in wine, so on weekends we often visit winemaker friends and their vineyards. When we are allowed to travel again, I will visit our suppliers abroad and taste their new vintages, which is massively exciting. Rinse and repeat.

In celebration of International Pinot Noir Day on the 18th of August, and indeed in celebration of Women’s Month, make sure to order via Wine Cellar fine wine merchants, raise a glass of fine South African Pinot Noir by SA’s ladies of the grape and revel in wine critic Neal Martin’s praise of South African wines: “I reiterate my claim that no country, no wine region has been as dynamic, progressive or indeed, as exciting as South Africa.”


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