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Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards


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 Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards

Mosaic Family Office

Mosaic Family Office

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.

Mosaic Family Office is a registered Financial Sector Conduct Authority financial services provider (#46319) in terms of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act of 2002.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir Grape


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 Barrel


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.

Pinot Noir Clones

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

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.

Grape Varieties

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

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.

Dijon Clones

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.

Pinot Noir Clone 114


PN 114 Clone


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.

Pinot Noir Clone 115


PN 115 Clone


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.

Pinot Noir Clone 667


PN 667 Clone


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.

Pinot Noir Clone 777


PN 777 Clone


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.

History of Pinot Noir in South Africa


The first mention of Pinot Noir in South Africa is by Irish novelist Laurence Sterne, who wrote in A Sentimental Journey of a Dutchman who planted the grape of Burgundy in the Cape of Good Hope, not necessarily to produce anything equal to Burgundy reds, but more with the aim of making some sort of vinous liquor.

We can only assume that all evidence of these Pinot Noir vines were either ripped out or lost to phylloxera.

Laurence Sterne
Abraham Izak Perold

Early 1920s

Abraham Izak Perold was a legendary botanist, ampelograph and wine scientist. He studied Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry at the Victoria College in Stellenbosch and obtained a PhD in Halle, Germany. He is tasked by the Cape government to explore new wine grape varieties in Europe and eventually returns with 177 varietals. He becomes the first Professor of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch, later becoming Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture. Professor Perold joined the KWV in 1927 and makes a huge contribution to the wine industry during his career.

Professor Perold is the earliest champion of Pinot Noir in South Africa and is credited with importing the Swiss Champagne BK5 Pinot Noir clone into the country. He would go on to describe the grape as a wine of high quality, beautifully coloured, strong, full-bodied wine with an excellent bouquet, in his book A Treatise on Viticulture.


Pinot Noir is crossed with Hermitage (better known as Cinsaut) in 1925 to produce Pinotage, South Africa's signature wine variety.

Pinotage is created as a home experiment of Professor Perold in the garden of his official residence at Welgevallen Experimental farm on the banks of the Eerste River in Stellenbosch. He harvests pollen from the early ripening Pinot Noir and keeps it in his refrigerator until the flowers of Hermitage are in bloom and then physically brushes the flowers with the pollen. This experiment yields four seeds that are planted in the same garden.

When Professor Perold left the university for KWV, it was decided to clear his garden. A young university lecturer named Dr. Charlie Niehaus happened to cycle past the garden as it is being cleared just in time to save the four Pinotage seedlings. The seedlings are re-established by Professor CJ Theron at Elsenburg Agricultural College.

Charl Theron (CT) de Waal, lecturer on winemaking at Elsenburg Agricultural College, produces the first barrel of Pinotage wine in 1941 at the winery at Welgevallen Experimental farm.

The first commercial Pinotage vineyard is planted in 1943 at Myrtle Grove on the Schapenberg in Sir Lowry's Pass.

Pinotage is used commercially for the first time on the label of the famous Lanzerac Pinotage 1959, made from grapes grown from block 153 on Bellevue Wine Estate in Stellenbosch.

Lanzerac Wines Pinotage 1959
George Paul Canitz


German artist George Paul Canitz buys Muratie Wine Estate in Knorhoek Valley, north of Stellenbosch. Canitz is a painter who lectures at the University of Stellenbosch, when his good friend Professor Perold convinces him to buy a wine farm promising Canitz to help. Muratie Wine Estate is the first estate in South Africa to plant Pinot Noir vines, in 1927. Canitz is quoted as claiming that Muratie Burgundy is bottled sunshine, it gladdens the heart and loosens the tongue!


Researchers at the University of Burgundy's Jules Guyot Institute in Dijon, France isolates 640 different clones of Pinot Noir. Each clone is planted in a separate vineyard and vinified annually, to determine which of the clones make the best wines. The improvement of clonal material is critically important for producing high quality Pinot Noir wines.

In 1957, the Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika (KWV) introduces a production quota system to prevent wine oversupply and to stabilise wine prices. This control prevents the expansion of the South African wine industry into production areas better suited to Pinot Noir. Additionally, the system incentivises grape growers to plant high-yielding varietals as they are paid for weight and not for the quality of the grapes produced. Pinot Noir with its renowned fickleness and demanding nature loses favour with farmers who favours high yielding wine grapes.

Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika
Hamilton Russell


The first official French clones of Pinot Noir are released in 1971, numbered from 111 to 115. Collectively, the clones are referred to as the Dijon clones, after the town in Burgundy from where they originate.

South Africa's Wine of Origin certification scheme is launched in 1973, in accordance with the Wine, Other Fermented Beverages and Spirits Act of 1957.

South African Pinot Noir finds its way into the modern era in the form of a tax break. Tim Hamilton Russell ran a successful advertising agency in Johannesburg and turned to farming to offset his personal income. He acquired the undeveloped 170ha farm Braemar in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus and renamed it Hamilton Russell Vineyards. The first vines, including Pinot Noir, are planted in 1976. The first wines are made in 1981, including a Grand Vin Noir made from Pinot Noir.


Walker Bay is recognised as a Ward in October 1981, in terms of the Wine of Origin certification scheme.

Meerlust Estate releases its first Pinot Noir in 1981, made by Italian winemaker Giorgio Dalla Cia.

Release of Dijon clones of Pinot Noir series 665-668, 777-780 and 828, 871 and 943.

Anthony Rawbone-Viljoen of Oak Valley Estate plants the first experimental vineyards in the Elgin Valley in 1985. Shortly thereafter in 1986 and with special permission from the quota authorities, Dr. Paul Cluver of Paul Cluver Wines plants a Riesling vineyard on De Rust Estate as the first commercial vineyard in the Elgin Valley.

Gunter Brözel of Nederburg Wines forms a joint venture with Oak Valley Estate and Paul Cluver Wines, establishing wine production in the Elgin Valley.

Arthur Pillmann plants the first Pinot Noir vines in Bot River in 1985 at Goedvertrouw Wine Estate. In 1989, Achim von Arnim of Haute Cabrière becomes a Pinot Noir pioneer in Franschhoek.

Elgin Valley is recognised as a Ward of the greater Overberg District in 1989, in terms of the Wine of Origin certification scheme.

After being awarded the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year award for his efforts with Pinot Noir, Peter Finlayson partners with acclaimed Burgundy wine négociant Paul Bouchard to establish Bouchard Finlayson Winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, in 1989.

Elgin Valley
South Africa's first democratic elections


The scrapping of the KWV's quota system in 1992 and South Africa re-entering international markets after the first democratic election in 1994, gives the local wine industry the freedom and opportunity to innovate and experiment with new cultivars and areas, benefitting Pinot Noir.

The apple industry suffers a major price decline in the 1990s because of large increases in the global supply of apples from China. This price decline prompts many Elgin Valley farmers to switch from apple production to wine grape production and stimulates the establishment of new vineyards, including Pinot Noir, in the region.

The French Dijon clones of Pinot Noir becomes available in South Africa and starts to replace the Swiss Champagne BK5 Pinot Noir clone. This significantly improves the potential quality of locally produced Pinot Noir red wines.

The 341ha plantings of Pinot Noir in 1990 increases to 487ha by the end of the millennium, with new areas like Darling joining the Pinot Noir ranks with Groote Post Winery releasing its first Pinot Noir in 1999.


It's a hard grape to grow, as you know. It is thin-skinned, temperamental. It is not a survivor like Cabernet that can grow anywhere and thrive even when neglected. Pinot needs constant care and attention, you know? Miles Raymond's words from the 2004 movie Sideways spurred a global surge in Pinot Noir sales, known as the Sideways Effect. The movie causes a 170% increase in the production of California Pinot Noir, and the enthusiasm for Pinot Noir also spills over to South Africa.

In May 2004, Walker Bay is reclassified as a District and is eventually spilt up into three new Wards: Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (recognised August 2006), Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (recognised August 2006) and Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge (recognised June 2009).

Elim is recognised as a Ward in April 2007, in terms of the Wine of Origin certification scheme.

Strandveld Winery in Elim releases its first Pinot Noir, while new Pinot Noir vines are planted in Stanford by Sir Robert Stanford Estate and in Plettenberg Bay by Packwood Wine Estate.

Total plantings of Pinot Noir in South Africa increase to 962ha by 2010.

Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Award


Pinot Noir production in South Africa continues to expand into new cool areas including the southern Cape, West Coast and Ceres Plateau. There are currently 1201ha of Pinot Noir in South Africa, making up 1.5% of the total area planted to wine grapes.

South African Pinot Noir red wines garners international praise from wine critics and publications. British Master of Wine Tim Atkin notes that the high quality of the best Cape Pinots is the single biggest achievement of the modern South African wine industry. UK-based wine critic and author Neal Martin states that South Africa produces some of the finest New World Pinot Noir. If I had to select a country that comes closest to achieving the heights of the Côte d'Or – and why not compare yourself with the apparent best – then it would probably be South Africa.

The Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards is established in 2020 to recognise and support the continued improvement of South African Pinot Noir red wines.

The best Pinot Noir red wines in South Africa are:


The Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Award 2023 winners are:

90+ award medals of excellence are awarded to:

Download the Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards 2023 Tasting Report


The Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Award 2022 winners are:

90+ award medals of excellence are awarded to:

Download the Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards 2022 Tasting Report


The Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Award 2021 winners are:

90+ award medals of excellence are awarded to:

Download the Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards 2021 Tasting Report


The Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Award 2020 winners are:

90+ award medals of excellence are awarded to:

Download the Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards 2020 Tasting Report

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