Near the Southernmost point of Africa lies a valley named Hemel-en-Aarde (Heaven and Earth) framed by mountains and within sight of the ocean, with frost free, soft, beneficial weather and the most perfect clay shale vineyard soils…
Located in the wine ward of Walker Bay, an hour and a half from Cape Town, the 125-hectare property currently has 22 hectares under vines; the rest is mountain land, covered by the spectacular indigenous ‘fynbos’ flora of the Western Cape. With only a small portion of the farm under vine Bouchard Finlayson is able to ensure the conservancy of the mountain land.
Bouchard Finlayson’s flagship wine is the Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, which has won many an award and accolade. Growing on the slopes of Galpin Peak, repeated vintages of this path-blazing wine continue to reflect a true celebration of Pinot-crafting, consistently endorsing the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley as a jewel in the hunt for this illusive grape.
Bouchard Finlayson is renowned as one of South Africa’s top wineries and this can be attributed to their philosophy and focus to produce wines of the finest quality.
The surrounding coastal town of Hermanus lures tourists and locals to partake in many exciting adventures. Hermanus is famous for the Whales that venture into their waters, Shark cage diving is another great attraction for the brave and courageous. If you prefer to keep your feet on the land, Hermanus surrounding mountains offers the most fantastic hiking trails with spectacular views.
Winemaking is a sport. Intermingled with a bit of instinct and art. Poetry is also required. All these facets are strongly influenced by the paradoxes of climate and weather… This is my general philosophy, but when I narrow it to test match cricket – the game in its most classic, serious, most stamina-sapping form – the allusion is surely to the most demanding, and yes, testing, grape of all, pinot noir, and to my battle with it here in the hills and vales behind Hermanus. I pace myself like an opening batsman during the harvest. I guard against exhaustion… fatigue leads to mistakes… The flashy, reverse-sweep sort of wine is not me. But I equally believe that a passionate and competitive spirit is essential in the making of great wines.’
Peter Finlayson’s passion is expressed in his unique descriptions of his wine range.
“During a barrel tasting of the new wines from the 1996 vintage I struck on the idea of a blend of the most impressive barrels, the Tête de Cuvée concept was born.” Tête de Cuvée Galpin Peak Pinot noir.
“I have maintained that Pinot noir is like opera! When it is great it is pure seduction almost hedonistic. There is no middle road.” Galpin Peak Pinot noir.
“An orchestra of flavours performed from the notes of different Italian and French cultivars.” Hannibal.
“The most malleable of all white grapes. It is the easiest to be good at, but the most difficult wines to be really great at!” Chardonnay.
“Sauvignon blanc is a lifelong tease, a difficult variety to master. The easy way out is to harvest relatively green and exploit the under-ripe grassy flashes resulting in naïve wines.” Sauvignon blanc.
“Each new wine is like a new child displaying uniqueness, offering promise, evoking a range of emotions, without any guarantees. I get to be involved in the initial development, giving my all but once bottled, and released into the world, I have to stand back and let go, quickly watching it develop and make its mark or accept criticism in the face of its exposure.”
Harvest 2012 Hemel-en Aarde Valley, Walker Bay South Africa
Some years ago I enjoyed a conversation with M. Henriot, owner of Henriot Champagne and Bouchard Pere et Fils where he made the defining comment on Pinot Noir … ” the problem with Pinot noir is the enormous variation between vintages “ .
Even in our consistent climate where we never fail to reach good natural grape sugar levels I have over the years, noted confirmed variation in the expression of our Pinot noir wines from the different vintages.
Well, 2012 is one of those extraordinary harvests where the crop has been substantial while the quality is correspondingly, enviously good in its early reflections! In my experience this is quite unusual! Never have we enjoyed such low VA levels or seen such clean and unblemished fruit.
The weather was perfectly dry throughout the six weeks of harvest. Looking back at vintage 2010 where the wines are proving to be simply super, the difference with 2012 is that 2010 presented a small crop..Some 25 % below average , while 2012 is at least 30 % above the norm! Another contrast was 2011 which was a wet year with different challenges; the bottom line is that we do not operate in a region where there are no vintage differences!
Our Chardonnay wines look very promising, and in fact all the whites should be right on the button . My sentiments are echoed by all Walker Bay and Elgin producers.
I hear from my peers on the Stellenbosch, Paarl and the Swartland areas that they were challenged by the dry conditions this year and generally complain of a 25% below average crop.
Harvest 2011 Hemel-en Aarde Valley, Walker Bay South Africa
I have offered the heading of “Hemel-en-Aarde Valley”, this being the official ward for our domain vineyard which is part of the Walker Bay wine region. Looking ahead we are very aware of the need to develop recognition behind our ward. Being close to the ocean we are much more susceptible to light rain resulting from localized coastal low pressure occurrences and consequently need to capitalize on the fact that we have a meso-climate different to the obvious Stellenbosch Paarl situation.
Timing has been of the essence with Pinot noir being the first grapes to the cellar this year!
Although this harvest year is what I would call a nervous harvest, due to wet conditions every few days, the resulting wines are symbolized by good mouth feel and expressive aromatics.
A later ripening was experienced this year compared to previous years.
The overall tonnage has increased, however a significant yield reduction was experienced for the Kaaimansgat Chardonnay yield. The berry size for this vineyard has been very small and thus resultant wines are concentrated and rich aromatically.
2010 was relatively dry in the winter months in the Hemel en Aarde Valley and then in December we experienced an unusual amount of rain for that time of the year, leaving us with a wet month. January and February, of 2011, yielded some wet days and this left us with concern as every third day we experienced some moisture – perfect weather for all kinds of opportunistic mildews to attack the photosynthesizing sites of the leaves. Luckily, due to a well-organized preventative spray program, the possible damage was reduced to a minimum considering the difficult climatic circumstances.
For our Pinot noir, this vintage year is promising, even though grape spoilage was a threat with these difficult weather conditions and the Chardonnay grape quality has been very good!
When natures deals us the cards, we aim to make the best of the deck – in the end it is about technique, timing and success in the cellar, but most important is to develop the feeling for the vintage and then craft where necessary in the cellar, to end up with a good hand!
Written by Peter Finlayson
Bouchard Finlayson’s continued focus towards conservation has meant that only 19 hectares of their most precious resource – their land, is under vines. In 2005 Bouchard Finlayson joined the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) – a partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector, aimed at protecting the Cape’s rich floral kingdom. The natural indigenous fynbos – a valuable ecosystem – is being preserved in the interests of biodiversity.
There are many facets surrounding sensitivity and positive action in caring for one’s environment. The BWI process encompasses the natural land areas attached to the total farm complement. The vineyard and winery functions are also formalised by way of environmental assessment.
A part-time environmental consultant and respected botanist – Frank Woodvine, has been employed by the farm to manage and coordinate all conservation activities. Plant mapping, clearing of alien plant infestations, replanting and rehabilitation of indigenous vegetation are just some of the many environmental activities that Bouchard Finlayson vineyards is dedicated to.
Bouchard Finlayson is IPW accredited*.
IPW is a self audited initiative where all winemaking and grape growing processes are measured and recorded. These records are then an indication of how responsible our farm is during winemaking practices. In addition to the above voluntary involvements, we have been ahead of our time in other areas of environmental caretaking.
One such commitment is our involvement with the University of Cape Town concerning a project with particular focus on researching biological control mechanisms – associated with eradicating alien plant species. This project has been highly successful and continues to be monitored by Prof. Cliff Moran.
Our winery waste water is also monitored and maintained at secure levels for redistribution through our irrigation system. The control of foraging wildlife on spring vineyards has been implemented by surrounding the property in bonox fencing, and bird control at harvest is affected through an audio system which broadcasts bird scare calls.
Bouchard Finlayson takes the stewardship of its natural environment seriously, to ensure that this beautiful piece of “Heaven and earth” (Hemel-en-Aarde) will still look untouched in years to come.
The six year BWI membership is a source of great pride to the Bouchard Finlayson team. “It is crucial that we preserve and protect the Cape Floral Kingdom – earth’s smallest and richest plant kingdom. To further our allegiance to this valuable initiative we have now set our sites on the coveted “Champion” BWI status, which is only awarded to a handful of estates,” comments Peter Finlayson.
BWI (Biodiversity and Wine Initiative) Champion and Pinot noir pioneers, Bouchard Finlayson, will be offering guided or self-guided nature walks to our visitors as from the 1st August 2012.
Our resident botanist Frank Woodvine will take you on a journey through nature, during which he will impart his knowledge on our “fynbos”, the indigenous vegetation type known officially as the Cape Floral Kingdom. Indulge your senses in our indigenous flora and fauna and discover some 50 plant species of which one rare and endangered Witsenia Maura (commonly known as the Bokmakierieriet) was thought to be locally extinct in the Greater Hermanus region. Another interesting find is a lone plant of Salvia granitica, which has been exciting local botanists since it was previously known from only a single specimen collected years ago.
Other sightings include our national bird the Blue crane, grysbok, mongoose and other interesting fauna and flora. Very rarely you may spot the footprints of the mountain leopard as it wanders from its home in the adjacent Babylonstoring Mountains in a wide-ranging search for food. Information is shared on the initiatives that Bouchard Finlayson follows to ensure that we can all enjoy this unique natural plant kingdom.
To book a guided walk, please call at least a week in advance with a minimum of eight people and a maximum of 15 people. After the walk guests are invited to enjoy an informative and sensational wine tasting in our authentic barrel cellar.
Contact email@example.com or 028 312 3515 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE 028 312 3515 end_of_the_skype_highlighting. The cost for these guided walks is to be confirmed according to duration etc. upon reservation.
There is also a self-guided walking option, please collect the map from our cellar door.
* IPW: (Integrated Wine Production) All aspects of grape growing and wine making are audited and are compliant with the South African IPW system, which is a self regulatory initiative being managed by the wine industry.