2015 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir

Year: 2015
Appellation: Hemel-en-Aarde Valley
Country: South Africa
Wine Spectator: 93
Wine Advocate: 92
Vinous Media: 94
Red Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 14.0%
Price :


"Gorgeous, with a silky, persistent and racy structure guiding alluring rooibos tea, blood orange, damson plum and singed wood spice notes along. Drink now through 2020. -J.M." (WS)

"The 2015 Pinot Noir offers attractive red cherry and bergamot tea-like scents on the well-defined bouquet, that "foxy" note on the 2014 fortunately not in evidence here. The palate is fresh and crisp on the entry, vivid red cherry and raspberry fruit, a fine silver bead of acidity, the 40% new oak neatly embroidered into the fabric of the wine. I like the symmetry here, the warmth of the growing season really benefiting the style of this Pinot Noir. Back on form after the 2014.

I have a lot of time for Hamilton Russell. That's not to say that everything they touch turns to gold or that they create the best Pinot Noir in South Africa bar none. No, what I appreciate is a sense of honesty about their wines. They reflect the growing seasons, they are not infallible, yet they always have personality, wear their hearts on their sleeves. For example, I re-tasted their 2014 Pinot Noir with Anthony Hamilton-Russell as I queried its showing last year and...nope...it still didn't do much for me, unable to shrug off a foxiness that deprives it of delineation and freshness. This was highlighted by much better showing of both the 2015 and 2016s. Winemaker Emul Ross has taken the reins from winemaker Hannes Storm, who now has his own label (see separate entry) and he seems very capable, an assured pair of hands as they convert to organic viticulture. Also, readers should not overlook their Chardonnay and their 2016 is a little cracker, thanks in part to the low yields of 20 hectoliters per hectare. The only thing left to mention is the Hamilton-Russell's dogs. Their great dane bounded towards me like a hair dinosaur. Surely a candidate for the largest canine in the world?" (WA)

"(14% alcohol; 42% new oak): Bright medium red. Sweet scents of cherry, redcurrant, raspberry and spices. Juicy, sharply delineated red cherry and red berry flavors show more texture than the 2016 but less soil complexity. This is richer, sweet, fruitier and deeper, and its soil character, saline minerality and complexity will emerge with time in the cellar. Finishes firm and very long, with sweet, integrated tannins and perfectly harmonious framing acidity. South African Pinot does not get better than this." (VM)

Winery Notes:
GROWING SEASON 2015 was an extraordinary vintage - unlike anything we have experienced before. It started a full 2 weeks early and finished over a period of 4 weeks (on February 20th) instead of our customary 7 weeks. The grapes were extremely healthy with thick skins and an unusually low juice content and the resulting wines are fuller and more sumptuous and concentrated than the 2013’s and 2014’s. Full ripeness was achieved surprisingly quickly and this happened despite the average maximum temperatures for the crucial months of Dec, Jan, Feb and Mar being lower at 24.95 Centigrade than our long term average of 25 Centigrade. This makes 2015 cooler than the celebrated 2013, 2012 and 2009. Another previously unexperienced feature of 2015 was the very high yeast conversion rates of grape sugars to alcohol. This was an industry wide feature and 2015’s, to be phenolically ripe, needed higher alcohol levels. A much drier and slightly warmer Spring than usual, in part accounts for the early harvest, combined with a drier and slightly warmer than average January. The harvest period had just over half of the average rainfall for the period. Greater sunlight intensity in the build-up to harvest also sped things up. 2015 was the first organic harvest (with some biodynamic features) for us and we have been thrilled with the results in our wines. We simply feel much better about what we do and we have been brought even closer to our all important vineyards. A logistically challenging but excellent vintage.

Our low-vigour, 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 savoury “primal” character along with a dark, spicy, complex primary fruit perfume.