Our low-vigor, stony, clay-rich soil, cool maritime mesoclimate, naturally tiny yields of well under 35 hl/ha and our philosophy of expressing our terroir in our wines – give rise to a certain tightness, tannin line and elevated length to balance the richness and generosity of our Pinot noir. Our Pinot noir is not overtly fruity, soft and “sweet” and it generally shows hints of that alluring savory “primal” character along with a dark, spicy, complex primary fruit perfume.
4 ½ Stars 2021 Platter’s South African Wine Guide
A first for HRV: as precaution to avoid smoke taint after wildfires, only 16% of estate fruit used in 2019 (94 pts); merger of the 3 Hemel-en-Aarde appellations (WO Walker Bay) gives softer tannins & fruit weight than usual but a broad appeal & charming personality.
93 pts Greg Sherwood MW March 2020 – “Having only been bottled a couple of months ago, this 2019 cuvee is wonderfully generous and opulent with layered aromatics of ripe blood oranges, bruleed wood spice, sun raisined red cherry, red bramble berries and subtle hints of pomegranate spice. The palate is perhaps more fleshy, supple and open than a normal Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir would be at this youthful stage in its life but it is certainly no less juicy, mouth watering and seductive. The bright fruit forward expression, however attractive, does perhaps obscure some of the usual structure and mineral restraint found on most vintages of Hamilton Russell new releases, however as Anthony commented, “it’s almost like we have just changed coopers or barrel toasting as the fruit quality is still exceptional.” There is fabulous earthy red berry fruit complexity bolstered by fine creamy tannins and soft, tangy acids that steer the wine to a long, glycerol, textured finish packed with oodles of sex appeal. This may be a once-off cuvee born out of tragedy but it is certainly a triumphant wine with great character and upfront appeal. Drink from release or cellar for 6 to 8+ years.
90 pts Wine Advocate Issue #253 Feb 2021
Before I begin my tasting note, I’d like to quickly focus on what Hamilton Russell has written on the back of their 2019 Pinot Noir label. While wildfires are not an uncommon occurrence for South Africa, it is refreshing to see such high integrity and transparency as Hamilton Russell has displayed in a challenging situation. Bottled as Walker Bay wine of origin, they had to reject almost all of their Pinot Noir vineyard fruit due to a wildfire. The estate stands to gain more trust and brand loyalty from their followers from the decision to be completely open and transparent about what happened to them and their Pinot Noir in 2019. I wish more of the world were as honest and transparent as Hamilton Russell has demonstrated to every consumer of this vintage. I don’t know everything there is to know about building brand loyalty, but I am confident that the first chapter of that playbook begins with what Hamilton Russell has written on the back of this particular bottling. Hamilton Russell: Good game—well played! Now, where was I… Displaying a classic ruby center, the 2019 Pinot Noir opens with soft expressions of red cherry skin, potpourri and wild strawberry, with a subtle undertone of French baking spices and a slight stemminess. Medium-bodied and with 13.5% alcohol, the wine offers subtle flavors of wild brush, red plum skin and spiced red tea, with a balanced frame and succulent acidity across the mid-palate. Ending with a slightly spicy and tannic finish, the wine remains a delightful expression of Pinot Noir but will be the outlier in a vertical tasting. 2021-2029
2019 will go down as the year of “the fire”. A massive fire burned around Hamilton Russell Vineyards on January 11th, directly damaging 10% of our Pinot Noir and causing concerns over smoke taint. Careful advance measures, and separate extremely gentle vinifications have however enabled us to produce a fine, complex, and beautiful 2019, albeit in a much negligible quantity. A great pity about the low production, as the year looks to be a truly great one for Pinot Noir. Fortunately the fire passed through very rapidly, reducing smoke exposure. Fire was not the only challenge. An unusually warm May, June, and July affected Chardonnay dormancy and, as a result, bud break was extremely uneven and in some cases incomplete. Our Chardonnay crop was 44% down, but the quality is excellent, with unusually slow ferments resulting in a generous texture with our typical bright minerality, stylistically somewhere between 2015 and 2018.
Overall, the vintage was cooler than 2017 and even 2018, with an average maximum temperature for Dec, Jan, Feb, and Mar of 24.5 C° (77.7F°) (versus an equivalent long term average for Burgundy of 24.8 Centigrade for this period). Rainfall was lower than average for spring and during harvest but occurred in frequent small amounts causing sustained high humidity. Fortunately our organic treatments proved highly effective against the resulting downy and powdery mildew threat. And the day after harvest finished, the serious rains began – some luck at least! We had the highest March rainfall in 21 years. Despite record low production and several challenges, the 2019’s have a pure, refined beauty.