Coinciding with the harvesting of our first Pinot noir of the 2016 vintage, our 2015 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot noir is now available for sale. As for our recently released 2015 Chardonnay, we are thrilled with the vintage (see the vintage writeup below). This is our 35th vintage of Pinot noir on Hamilton Russell Vineyards. We find the 2015 more sumptuous and textured than the 2014 – and to borrow from the feedback we have received from numerous tasters, more Cote de Nuits than the more Cote de Beaune-like structure of the 2014.
Production was very much in line with the previous vintage and yields were characteristically low at 3.03 tons per hectare or 18.76 hectolitres per hectare. The wine has clean, lifted, dark and wild, but sweetish, fruit, with a cinnamon, clove and nutmeg spiciness. The fine-grained grape tannins are extremely well integrated and along with the low pH and high acidity, provide a good drying “cut” to the sweet fleshiness of the wine. A long and layered Pinot noir, with an analysis that suggests real age-worthiness. A highly rewarding aspect of this vintage for us was the success of our organic practices – another first for the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. We have found a greater purity of fruit and more precision in our wines, which we expect to become even more marked as the benefits of being organic accumulate over time.
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 (surprisingly) 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.
All the best and we greatly look forward to the possibility of hosting you on Hamilton Russell Vineyards in 2016!