A flip through the latest Platter’s Guide suggests that the cool-climate vineyards of the Elgin and Hemel-en-Aarde valleys are where you’ll find South Africa’s top-rated Pinot Noir. The likes of Newton Johnson, Bouchard Finlayson and Creation Wines are justifiably famous for their elegant Pinots, and yet the roots of this signature wine originating from the Burgundy region of France are to be found in the hills outside Stellenbosch.
The Roots of Pinot Noir
We have George Paul Canitz to thank for planting the first Pinot Noir vineyards on the estate in 1927. A German artist and part-time lecturer at Stellenbosch University, Canitz fell in love with the neglected manor house and set about restoring and replanting the estate.
Pinot and Hermitage
Together with viticulturist Professor Abraham Izak Perold, who created South Africa’s signature Pinotage grape by cross-pollinating Pinot Noir and Hermitage, Canitz crafted the first ‘Burgundy’ in Stellenbosch. It was an experiment that paid off handsomely, with Canitz claiming: “Muratie Burgundy is bottled sunshine; it gladdens the heart and loosens the tongue!”
The Canitz family eventually sold the farm to the late Ronnie Melck, whose son Rijk now oversees the estate. In 2009 he changed the name of the Pinot Noir to pay tribute to the father of South African Pinot, with the current 2012 vintage of the George Paul Canitz Pinot Noir now on shelves.
Made from dry-land vineyards, it’s a wine with lively acidity and a fresh palate of raspberries, cherries, cloves and sandalwood that are given a solid platform of oak tannins to perform on. That combination of acidity and tannin means the wine will happily age for the next decade, but can equally be enjoyed this festive season. It’ll pair perfectly with a dish of rare venison, or a wild mushroom risotto.
Nearly a century after the first vines were planted in the sandstone soils of Muratie, it’s not hard to think that George Paul Canitz would have been rather pleased with a glass of ‘his’ 2012 Pinot Noir.
Experience it for yourself:
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Words: Richard Holmes