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1st October 2018


Tasting of Creation wines from Hemel en Aarde, with Jean-Claude Martin

Last week I was given the opportunity to taste a range of premium South African wines in Nice with the owner of the estate and his importer.

The original introduction had been made by my friend Jan-Hendrik van Westerhuizen, a superstar chef, and holder of the first ever Michelin Star to go to a South African for his astonishing restaurant in Nice: Jan .

I also checked with my friend in Cape Town, Cathy van Zyl, the first South African Master of Wine.

All the signs were good! I have long been a fan of the often elegant and poised wines of South Africa’s coast, especially the areas of Elgin, Elim, Walker Bay, Hermanos and its sub-division Hemel-en-Aarde. The top producers are Hamilton-Russell, Bouchard-Finlayson, Newton-Johnson and Creation.

Creation is a relatively new venture, the vineyards having all been planted since 2002. This is important. While ‘old vines’ is often the clue to concentration and quality in the rest of the world, a great percentage of the Cape’s older vines are the victim of viruses, especially leaf-roll virus. These viruses can limit quality and may even be responsible for the stereotypical (now cliché) burnt/smoky flavour of South African wines (especially reds). There is absolutely none of that at Creation.

Swiss Jean-Claude Martin and his wife Carolyn now have 60 hectares planted to a diversity of varieties, principally Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but with many others. They produce around 350,000 bottles (and a further amount in a joint project with Martin Prieur of Gevrey-Chambertin’s Jacques Prieur), half of which is exported, and a great deal of what is sold domestically goes to the estate’s 80,000 visitors per year. I must become one of these one day soon! The place sounds idyllic!

We tasted a range of wines, with the charming Mathieu Jacquet of le Goût du Vin in Dijon, Creation’s importer in France. A brave thing, to import Pinot Noir into Burgundy, but if any wines would win over the Burgundians, then these are they..!

Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2016
100% oak (same tonnellerie as Dagueneau (Caven)) 80 Sauv 20 Sem
(30% of Sauvignon in new oak). No battonage.
Very oaky scents, after a few minutes the peach and citrus fruit comes out. Very rich aroma. Rich in the mouth with lemon and tangerine flavours. Tangy acidity. Some leafiness and freshness to complement the rich fruit. Long rich finish. 17

Viognier 2017
No oak, but on lees for 8 months.
(They have also planted Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc)
Pungently aromatic with stone fruit and floral notes. Good acidity and not too strong (14%) in alcohol. Some green freshness and not jammy in the mouth, but definitely Viognier in flavour. Very fresh balanced finish. 16.5

Chardonnay 2017
Three Chardonnays: Estate, Reserve (vineyard selection, no press wine) L’Arte.
10 months in Barrique 25% new. 100% MLF
Lees and cream aromas, quite Burgundian style, rich some popcorn and toasted hazelnut. Rich but with a zesty acidity. Peach and apple/ginger fruit. Good lees and creaminess. . Rich toasty finish. Oaky, but everything in balance. 18.

Chardonnay Reserve 2016
Slightly warmer year. 35-40% new oak. 10 mnths.
More buttery and richer with toasted hazelnut and popcorn, cream, yoghurt lees and baked apple fruit aromas. Very rich, creamy flavours and texture, some slight phenolic touch (lees perhaps as no skin), with leafiness and rounded fruit. Very good, and serious. Best kept for a while, at this age I prefer the Estate wine though. 17.5

Pinot Noir 2016
(Three in range as per Chardonnay)
“The only place in South Africa where Pinot Noir can work” J-C M
15% stems.
Mid colour. Strawberry and cherry aromas. More black than red fruits, but light.
Some leafiness (stems) to complement the sweet light bright cherry fruit. Some sweet almond complexity. Good fresh balancing acidity and light but structured tannins. Good juicy length. A great success. 18

Pinot Noir Reserve 2016
Selection parcellaire. Oldest vines (15 years old). 35% whole bunch. 2 or 3 pigeage max. 100% in oak
Very rich and well extracted, with sweet fruit, some earthiness, hints of green leafy stems, some bitter orange, black cherry fruit, zesty acidity. Some cinnamon from the oak, but not too much. Concentrated and deep, with fresh acidity. Very good indeed. Burgundian and complex, and will improve. 18.5/19

Syrah Grenache 2016
Harvested much later (March/April) 80% Syrah, 20% Grenache
15% new oak.
(South facing slopes for Chard, Sauv and PN, north facing slopes for the Syrah and Grenache)
Definitely has the characteristics of Syrah with violet, liquorice and spice. Black cherry and Black Forest Gateau aromas. Some fresh wild strawberry notes. Rich in the mouth (14.5%) but with balancing freshness. Very ripe tannins, and some richness (but no RS) Quite Rhône-y in style, with a rich cocoa and black fruit finish. Very good. 17.5


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