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Apr 26

Innocence of Youth

Taking Pinot Noir to the beach

Have you ever seen wines labelled as ‘Old Vines’, ‘Vieilles Vignes’, ‘Viñas Viejas’? It’s one of those terms that can be used freely on a bottle of wine as no one has yet determined how old vines need to be in order to gain the plaudit. As vines get older they will expand their root system and burrow deep into the soils, which is a good thing. They will also start to regulate themselves better and become more hardy as they do so. With advanced age vines will become less productive, but I suppose that happens to most of us! That drop in production could mean the vine puts the energy into ripening fewer berries, thereby ensuring a more concentrated juice. The term itself is on the rise and is often seen as a badge of quality, but the fact there is no regulation around it makes it more of a marketing term. That said, I have had many wines labelled as ‘Old Vines’ that do show a remarkable concentration and balance.

What really caught my eye was a wine that proudly proclaimed on the label it was produced from ‘Young Vines’. Wow! I’m not sure I would have the courage to admit to that. My slight apprehension was immediately quashed as soon as I tasted the wine, the Seven Springs Pinot Noir from South Africa.

The Pinot Noir vines were only planted in July 2008 in the beautifully named ‘Hemel en Aarde’ Valley (Heaven and Earth), near Hermanus. The vines yielded their first ever vintage in 2011, made by 29 year old Riana van der Merwe and it is simply gorgeous. With the fruit doing all the talking rather than the oak, this was a sheer joy of juiciness. Ripe cherries and strawberries, vibrant in its innocent youth. Not so much an unruly teenager as a well-balanced, vivacious character that already shows complexity well beyond its age and knows its way around a wine glass. Hats off, not just for the wine, but for having the gumption to label it as young vines and making a feature of it. It will be interesting to watch this one over successive vintages and see how it develops into a thirty-something.

Seven Springs is not all about Pinot Noir either. The delicate, apple-scented Sauvignon Blanc is lovely and pure. There are a couple of Chardonnays with the unoaked being my favourite and a sumptuous Syrah, again coming from younger vines and gently oaked in older barrels.

For stockist information, go to the Seven Springs website and they are very active on Facebook and Twitter too. Images used with kind permission by Tim Pearson.

14 comments

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  1. Tim Pearson

    Lovely write up Pieter, thank you. Wait till you try our 2011 Chardonnay (oaked) – I think my favourite of our wines so far (but I guess that is like a dad or mum saying they have a favourite child). We chose to use ‘Young Vines l’ on the label to manage peoples expectations. You have summed up perfectly.

    1. Pieter

      Thanks Tim. Look forward to trying the Chardonnay soon!

  2. Carleton

    I agree, great write up. We are very pleased to be able to sell Tim’s wines at http://www.bijoubottles.co.uk or if you happen to be in our area drop into Bouchon (www.bouchonwinebar.com) where you can try all of Tim’s wines by the glass.

    1. Pieter

      Thanks Carleton, much appreciated.

  3. Tim

    Good try Carleton…..I love your approach. Actually Pieter is trying to get our wines listed at a wine shop near him in Glasgow. So he is a bit far to just ‘pop in’ to Norfolk. Hope all at Bijou are well and please give everyone my very best wishes.

  4. Damien

    Another thought for Tim is that as the vines mature, he has a built-in mechanism for incremental price increases as ‘young vines’ is removed from the label. Yet another example of honesty in labeling favoring both the consumer and producer. Now I’m really looking forward to trying this wine!

  5. Tim

    Yes we are with you there Damien and it is exactly what our plans are. You would not be a certain Damien Wilson from Dijon by any chance :)

  6. Fredy

    I couldn’t agree more with Pieter’s review. It has become a favorite Pinot for a lot of our customers and myself included!!! Well done to Riana, Tim and Vaughan. Please if you are in the Joburg area pop in for a taste of the Seven Spring range!!! We are Boucheron wines and you can find us on http://www.boucheron.co.za Now enjoy this beautiful Monday!!!

  7. Pieter

    I absolutely agree about the honesty in labelling on show here Damien. Only thing for Tim and Riana to decide now is when ‘young’ becomes ‘old’.

  8. Tim Pearson (@7SpringsWine)

    Going by what you said in your blog Pieter we are beyond the ‘unruly teenager’ stage, without even going through it :) Phew, thank goodness for that!! We will monitor each vintage and then decide on our labelling. For our 2012 Pinot we have produced one barrel which really stood out from the rest (similar barrels both in cooperage and age). So Riana asked if we could bottle this one in magnums, which we have. Interesting to see how the developement of this one goes.

    So as the vines age and we learn we will keep tweeking and developing. Our 2012 will have this video on the back label (embedded in a QR code).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2UQs6pvMeg

    Thanks for all your encouragement and comments it makes a big difference to us. And thanks Fredy, you are great people to work with.

  9. Stuart Edwards

    This is a remarkable Pinot Noir, interesting that it is made from vines planted in 2008, so we are drinking three year old fruit with maybe a year in old oak and a year in glass. It reminds me very much of the 2009 Julicher 99Rows, Wim’s wine from his young vines. Although we have very little information on its vinification, clearly there is an oak involvement but it is blessedly subtle and probably older barrels, and just like 99Rows the wine proclaims fruit without going over the top and producing P/Noir Jam!! Also interesting, is that this is produced by a young female winemaker and so is 99Rows, Pieter’s blog was titled the ‘Innocence of Youth’ I rather think that applies, very successfully, to both the fruit and the winemaker, we are looking forward to the next vintage!

  10. Tim

    Thanks Stuart. For everyone else Stuart owns http://www.citybeverage.co.uk/ and sells our wines at his shop in Hoxton, London.

    For your information the wine was in barrel for 9 months and we used 2nd and 3rd fill barrels, so absolutely spot on. We did not wish to spoil excellent fruit by ‘masking’ it with too much oak, rather use the oak as a supporting, not dominating, role.

    As for our 2012…..well let’s just say I am really excited.

  11. Winfield Wines

    You cannot beat a bottle of Pinot Noir! My favourite, I love your blog Pieter

    1. Pieter

      Thanks! Pleased to know someone is reading it ;-)

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