La Vierge Wines Apogée Pinot Noir 2016, produced in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge near Hermanus, was awarded a coveted position on the 2020 Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards list. An apogée is defined as the highest point, a climax or culmination. La Vierge Wines also describe the Apogée series as the very best expression of wine from their vineyards and efforts in the winery.
La Vierge Wines is located in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, where sea mists and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley’s overcast conditions grace the Pinot Noir vines with even temperatures.
Christo Kotze, the winemaker at La Vierge Wines, describes Pinot Noir as a delicate variety that shows seasonal differences more prominently than other, thicker-skinned red grapes.
Christo says, “this wine is made from the highest altitude block of Pinot Noir on the farm, on the southern-facing hillside.” The vines are planted in Argillaceous shale of the Bokkeveld Series, trellised on vertical shoot positioning – or in the Perold method. The Apogée vineyard consist of Pinot Noir clones 115 and 777.
For Christo, the 2016 vintage stood out because it was a quick vintage with slightly larger crop levels.
According to Christo, “the grapes were hand-harvested by hand and enjoyed cool, early morning temperatures. After overnight cold storage, they were sorted, de-stemmed and gently crushed into fermention tanks. Cold maceration occurred for three days to gently extract colour and fruit flavours.”
“Thereafter, the wine was fermented under controlled temperatures until dry. The skins were lightly pressed and the wine racked into a selection of French oak barriques (20% new), for nine months of aging and maturation. Final blending occurred one month prior to bottling and the wine was allowed to develop further in the bottle prior to release,” Christo says.
The La Vierge Wines Apogée Pinot Noir 2016 expresses plum, cherry and violet aromas. It also displays the savoury Hemel-en-Aarde quality, with spice and forest floor flavours.
Only 600 bottles of this wine were produced.
Dr. Winnie Bowman, Cape Wine Master and renowned international wine judge, was the chairperson of the five-person panel that adjudicated the 2020 Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards.
“We had a five-person panel comprised of three Cape Wine Masters, a qualified winemaker and a sommelier. We wanted to incorporate all the angles of assessing the wines from a technical, consumer, food-pairing, quality and all-round South African style”, she says. The wines were judged strictly blind over two rounds, to determine the top five winners.
La Vierge Wines Apogée Pinot Noir 2016 stood out among over one hundred other wines. She says, “we had 109 entries, which is astounding for a brand-new competition, especially in 2020! Generally, the quality was very good and the panel agreed that the standard of Pinot Noir in South Africa has improved with winemakers learning more about their sites and winemaking techniques. As the results illustrate, Hemel-en-Aarde and Elgin stood out firmly as the best areas for Pinot Noir in South Africa.”
“All five winners had the same qualities in common,” she explains, “harmony, balance, purity of fruit, a silky texture in the mouth, length and the alluring perfume that makes Pinot Noir so special.”
According to Dr. Bowman, Pinot Noir is a unique grape. “It is not called the heartbreak grape for nothing,” she says. “The pleasure that a glass of quality Pinot Noir gives will place you under a spell forever. With the assistance of an experienced winemaker, it becomes a magic potion. Pinot Noir is alluring and sexy and goes with a very wide variety of food.”
“Pinot Noir is such a versatile wine to be had slightly chilled on its own or with almost any food – from creamy risotto, to chicken or freshly grilled fish”, Dr Bowman suggests.
Christo Kotze agrees that mushroom risotto is an ideal dish to pair with Pinot Noir. In addition, he suggests roast game, cream-based pasta or hard cheese platters as ideal accompaniments to La Vierge Wines Apogée Pinot Noir.
While the La Vierge Wines Apogée Pinot Noir 2016 has been widely appreciated, Christo says that the next release is also worth looking forward to. “The 2017 vintage is currently regarded as one of the best vintages in South Africa. This makes the release of the 2017 vintage extremely exciting,” Christo says.
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