Lots of parentheses about Crystallum pinots

I issued (is that an appropriate word?) a tweet (no, I suppose “issued” is a bit too formal and portentous, but let it stand, in desperation) about Crystallum’s Peter Max Pinot. Basically I said it was a lovely, sensual beast. Dark, substantial and sexy (heaven forbid I draw any parallel to the winemaker). Delightfully drinkable now.

crystallum-cuvee-cinemaBut here’s a reasonable facsimile of a report on the two rather more serious 2012 pinots put out by Crystallum: Cuvée Cinéma (I do wonder if Peter-Allan and  Andrew Finlayson are not going to regret that name, which already I find too tedious to explain here) and the new one, Bona Fide (also an insufficiently serious name but which has the merit of being obscure and irrelevant to most things, so it doesn’t matter, it’s just a name; but let it be noted that it’s a pity that people making great wine don’t enough consult people who are good at thinking of great names for the stuff).

They offered the wines at a splendid Cape Town tasting the other day, but I have had the great privilege of mulling over the bottles for three days now and three days have made something of a difference to my opinions. Yes and no. That is, I now have at least decided which I prefer of the two. (The better of the two? Maybe.) Perhaps it’s shameful that I need three days rather than a quick sniff, swirl and spit in order to issue a pronouncement – but, well, we all have our inadequacies. So does young wine. And these wines yielded up different things, different lessons over that time.

Both are very good. Interestingly, let me say that local pinot producers tend to be rather scathing about each other, in my experience of pinot chat, but most of them seem to agree that Crystallum is a Good Thing, on the whole. And I, too, think Crystallum is a Good Thing.

The first important, and to be celebrated, point about these two wines, the French one (Cuvée Cinéma) and the Latin one (Bona Fide) is that they are very different, and remained so over three days of sipping them. Even their colours. BF is typically youthfully light ruby (purple-tinged), while CC shows the same apparent early development invariably shown by another excellent inland Hemel-en-Aarde pinot, the Newton Johnson Family Vineyards version.

Bona Fide comes from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley ward (the one closest to Hermanus; and already we are learning to be grateful for the split of the H-en-A into three wards). It is clearly riper (and I’m presuming for now that that is a matter of terroir rather than simply of choosing a later picking date). The wine is richer, more sensual, opulent and showy, sweeter-fruited, powerful, exuberant. Tannins are restrained, texture velvety, the acidity is beautifully grippy.

Cuvée Cinéma is from the furthest inland ward, Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. The colour is redder, with that touch of mahogany on the rim (worrying on a young wine, unless one has learned that this seems to be what happens and is provisionally placated). Also dark-fruited notes, but they are brighter, more lifted (!?). With a slightly more pronounced acidity, it is finely balanced, more elegant than Bona Fide – but could this mean it is simply less intense, less concentrated (in modern terms simply … less)?

I dithered for a few days. Both wines remained attractive and interesting, perhaps opening up somewhat. On the third day, suddenly, it was strikingly clear to me which of the two I enjoyed more (in, let us remember, the youth of these wines – neither is ready to drink at its best for three or four or five years at least – drink Peter max meanwhile). Both wines are undoubtedly pretty good examples of Cape pinot – I really don’t think we do much better than these.

Cinéma was showing, on that third day, just a little hint of the deleterious, flattening effect of oxidation. I suspect that Bona Fide is going to last longer – and possibly develop longer.  Should that be the vote-deciding factor? Perhaps.

I am admittedly partial to a bit of oxidation, especially when it mutes fruitiness. Is it that making me definitively realise that I prefer the Cinéma, while I finally decided that Bona Fide is just that little bit too ripe and showy? For me, for me …. not for Christian Eedes (his different, judgement is here – quicker-made but I suspect he wouldn’t alter it) or perhaps for you. But the greater elegance and finesse is really what decided things for me. I care less about concentration and density.

Aren’t we lucky to have both wines?

By the way, for any linguistically or grammatically challenged, but ambitious, tweeters and bloggers and their “readers” who might feel impelled to search in Google, I can point out that parentheses (plural of parenthesis) are, merely, brackets. I’m admittedly more addicted to them than is quite right.

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