The annual Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards identify five exceptional South African Pinot Noir red wines to serve as a benchmark for the development of distinctive South African Pinot Noir red wines and to showcase the world the quality of Pinot Noir red wines produced in South Africa.
The Top Five Trust, in collaboration with our generous sponsor, Mosaic Family Office, takes great pride in acknowledging and supporting the role of climate, people, soil, and numerous other factors that contribute to the creation of the finest Pinot Noir red wines in South Africa.
Top Five Trust is a registered public benefit organisation, reference number 930068246.
Mosaic Family Office is proud to sponsor the annual Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards.
Mosaic Family Office provides innovative solutions to solve the complex financial problems of its family office clients. The firm specialises in the establishment and maintenance of local and offshore multigenerational financial inheritance structures that allow families to manage, protect and grow their wealth for current and future generations. Core competencies include administration, fiduciary, philanthropy, portfolio management, structuring and taxation services.
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Pinot Noir is a demanding variety to cultivate and transform into wine, with a temperament that has earned the grape its ‘heartbreak grape’ moniker.
It is one of the most ancient varieties of domesticated vitis vinifera with the earliest mention more than two thousand years ago by Columella in De Re Rustica, a 12-volume encyclopaedia on agriculture in the Roman empire.
Pinot Noir is an early budding and ripening variety that produces small grape clusters that are tightly packed with thin-skinned berries. Pinot Noir vines are less vigorous and lower yielding compared to other varieties.
The name ‘Pinot Noir’ is derived from the French words for ‘pine’ and ‘black’. The reference to a pine tree alludes to the pinecone-like shape of the grape bunches. The reference to the colour black is an acknowledgment that the Pinot family also has white and grey variants called Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.
Pinot Meunier is another important variant of Pinot Noir, and one of the three main varieties used in the production of Champagne. The name is derived from the French word for ‘miller’ and refers to the dusty white down on the underside of the grape leaves.
There are around one thousand different Pinot Noir clones, of which approximately 50 clones are available for commercial use. The existence of the large number of clones and variants have fuelled an enduring myth that Pinot Noir is genetically unstable and that it mutates more frequently compared to other varieties. However, no scientific study has ever demonstrated that Pinot Noir is more prone to mutations compared to other grape varieties. Because Pinot Noir is so old, it has had ample time to naturally accumulate genetic modifications compared to other younger varieties.
Pinot Noir has crossed naturally with many other varieties and is linked to more than a hundred descendants including Chardonnay, Aligoté, Muscadet and Gamay.
It is cultivated around the world, mainly in cooler climates, and is closely associated with the Côte-d'Or (meaning ‘golden slope’) department in the Burgundy region in north-eastern France.
Pinot Noir produces light to medium bodied wines with fine tannins and a lighter colour than other red wines, due to the thinner grape skins with lower tannin content compared to other black grape varieties.
Although Pinot Noir wine is light in colour, it tends to be very rich in flavour. Quality Pinot Noir wine is universally recognised for its complex flavour composition on the nose and its soft lingering aftertaste, contributing to an unmatched overall tasting experience.
Wine made from Pinot Noir grapes tends to have aromas reminiscent of cherry, cranberry, pomegranate, raspberry, strawberry and many other small red berry fruits. These fruit aromas are often accompanied by a flowery perfume consisting of the scents of violets and roses. Maturation in oak barrels adds caramel, clove, spice and vanilla aromas and assists with the transformation of softer tannins. Some styles of Pinot Noir can also develop farmyard, forest floor, mushroom and other savoury aromas that contribute to the complexity of the wine.
Pinot Noir red wine is perfect for many food pairings due to its delicate nature and red berry profile. The wine matches well with most chicken, duck, fish, pasta, pork, sushi and vegetarian dishes.
The development of modern Pinot Noir clones was critically important and resulted in significantly improved Pinot Noir wines. To understand clones, one has to understand how originally domesticated wild vines spawned different grape varieties, each of which has numerous commercially available clones.
Vitis vinifera, the common grape vine, was domesticated in the Imeretia Valley in modern Georgia 6000-8000 years ago when Neolithic hunters and gatherers discovered a type of climbing bush with vines as long as thirty meters in length yielding nutritious berries.
Over millennia, these primitive varieties were cross bred, mutated and hybridized with indigenous Vitis species as it spread across the Near East, Middle East and Central Europe to create the classic wine grapes we consume today. There are an estimated 6,000 different grape varieties, the best known are the nine classic international varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Shiraz/Syrah.
Clonal selection of grape varieties is the process where cuttings are planted, cultivated and analysed to see if they carry desirable traits such as colour, disease resistance, economic yields, flavour, etc. to ultimately produce high quality wine. It is a slow and costly process that requires many years of effort.
The practice originated in Germany during the 19th century, when German winery owner Ökonomierat Gustav Adolf Froelich observed, selected, propagated, replanted and repropagated vines from a single own-rooted high quality Silvaner vine in Edenkoben, Pfalz. The first clonal vineyard of these Silvaner vines was planted in 1900 and the first clone was officially recognized in 1921 and registered in 1925.
The vineyards in the Côte d'Or in Burgundy in the 1950s performed poorly due to viral infestation, late harvests, and susceptibility to rot and there was general dissatisfaction with the quality of the wines.
Professor Raymond Bernard set out to obtain cuttings from many vineyards in the Côte d'Or and beyond and planted these in an experimental vineyard in the Hautes Côtes and the vineyards of Lycée Viticole De Beaune, the famous viticulture and vinification education institute created in 1884. He isolated 640 different clones of Pinot Noir and planted each one seperately and vinified these into wine each year to determine which of the clones make the best wine.
The first official Dijon clones of Pinot Noir, named after the capital city of the Burgundy region, were released in 1971, numbered from 111 to 115 of which clones 114 and 115 remain widely used to this day. Series 665 to 668, which contains the famous 667, was released in 1980 while series 743, the famous 777, 778, 779 and 780 was released in 1981. In the late 1980s, clones 828, 871 and 943 became available.
Perfumed style of Pinot Noir with pomegranate, spice and blueberry flavours and aromas. Medium tannins.
Medium fertility and bunch weight, fruit set can be irregular.
High sugar potential.
Tighter bunches than 667 and 777.
Well-rounded style of Pinot Noir with rose-petal, red cherry, anise and black raspberry flavours and aromas. Highly valued for balance. Low tannins.
Medium fertility, regular fruit set, medium vigour.
High sugar potential, low production.
Tighter bunches than 667 and 777, slightly more acid.
Toned style of Pinot Noir with dark cherry, raspberry, black tea, nutmeg, allspice and clove flavours and aromas. Low tannins.
Medium fertility, regular production of small bunches, about the same size as 777.
Slightly shorter cycle with earlier maturity than some clones.
High sugar production.
Velvety style of Pinot Noir with black cherry, cassis, blackberry, licorice and pipe tobacco flavours and aromas. Well-balanced tannins.
Regular production with earlier maturity than some clones.
Medium to small clusters and medium to small berries.
High sugar potential.
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