Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Awards winners announced

by | Aug 18, 2021 | Article, News

Today (18 August) is International Pinot Noir Day. To mark this auspicious occasion, the Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards has announced its 2021 champions – the crème de la crème of SA’s Pinot Noir producers.

Now in its second year, the Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Wine Awards continues to laud the distinctive quality and prowess of our Pinot Noir producers, especially those who manage to consistently produce notable expressions of this capricious, yet elegant grape variety.

Proudly sponsored by Mosaic Family Office, and convened by the Top Five Trust and South African Pinot Noir Association, these awards identify five wines to serve as a benchmark for the development of premium Pinot Noir in South Africa.

Creation Wines’ co-owner Carolyn Martin describes Pinot Noir as the ‘Prince of Red Wines’. “At its best, Pinot Noir is an elegant and multi-faceted wine offering intriguing complexity and depth. It has the texture and intensity one would typically expect from a heavily-structured wine, yet a truly fine Pinot Noir is delicate and easy to drink.”

Pinot Noir is notoriously hard to grow, earning its moniker as the ‘heartbreak grape’. This low-yielding variety doesn’t like it too hot or too cold, and its thin skin makes it sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Although fickle, Pinot Noir is all finesse. Considered the most ethereal of wines (the ‘Holy Grail’, if you will …) Pinot Noir possess a certain elegance few other red varieties can match.

Experienced wine writer and a judge at this year’s Awards, Fiona McDonald, agrees. “South Africa has a track record for being slightly overenthusiastic in our approach. But judging from what I’ve tasted, it became apparent that this generation of winemakers possess the ability to show real restraint, refinement and subtlety when making wine. These are qualities needed to produce a top-class Pinot Noir.”

She says it doesn’t necessarily require a wholesale, sweeping change of approach, but small tweaks in the vineyard and cellar. “It’s about exploring those tiny nuances. It’s about tweaking your approach during every step of the winemaking process. It’s about managing your fruit and the decisions you make in the cellar. It’s those little incremental changes that often makes the most significant contribution.”

Fiona’s seriously impressed with the quality of Pinot Noirs on show at this year’s judging. “These are wines that whisper seductively in your ear, instead of screaming loudly in your face. It was more flair and finesse, like Cheslin Kolbe, instead of power and aggression like Eben Etzebeth,” she quips.


The 2021 Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Award winners are: Benguela Cove Wine Estate Vinography Pinot Noir 2019, Brew Cru Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge Pinot Noir 2019, Elgin Vintners Pinot Noir 2020, La Vierge Wines La Vierge Noir 2017 and Richard Kershaw Wines’ The Smuggler’s Boot Pinot Noir 2019.


Convenor and international wine judge, Dr Winnie Bowman (CMW) only has praise for the quality on offer at this year’s competition, but also for Pinot Noir producers’ ability and consistency. “Wow, a truly outstanding line-up,” she exclaims.

The winners list was dominated by the cool climate regions of Hemel-en-Aarde and Elgin, confirming its status as South Africa’s two foremost Pinot Noir producers. Unsurprisingly, two wines from Durbanville, De Grendel and Ntida, also received 90+ medals. The region is gaining serious renown for producing top-class, cool-climate Sauvignon Blancs.

“It was an eye-opener. South African producers finally get the art of handling Pinot Noir,” says Winnie. “These wines expressed real varietal character and true elegance, an evident sign of producers who are in control of their vineyards, and who understand their microclimates.” She believes that the Top 5 can most certainly hold its own against the best from Australia’s Mornington Peninsula or Russian River in California.

“We’ve come a long way with Pinot Noir,” says Fiona. “Twenty years ago, it was perceived as somewhat ponderous or trying to be something it wasn’t. A lot of it had to do with the clones available at the time. Modern clones are much more suited to our current conditions.”

Fiona and Winnie is convinced that South African Pinot Noir will continue to go from strength to strength. “With this level of quality and finesse on display, the future looks promising for South African Pinot Noir. Our producers have the potential to make world-class Pinot Noir that could match the likes of Burgundy one day. “Bravo to all the winners!”

The 2021 Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Awards judge’s tasting took place in Cape Town on 3 August, with 64 entries from 42 producers competing with wines from its 2013 to 2020 vintages. The judging process adhered to strict blind tasting and Covid-19 protocols during the preliminary and final rounds. Scores were awarded on the 100-point scale.

Along with Winnie and Fiona, this year’s judging panel also consisted of head sommelier at the Twelve Apostles Hotel Gregory Mutambe, and Spier senior winemaker Anton Swarts (CWM).

The five best Pinot Noir wines in South Africa are (alphabetical order):

Benguela Cove Wine Estate Vinography Pinot Noir 2019

Elgin Vintners Pinot Noir 2020

La Vierge Wines La Vierge Noir 2017

Richard Kershaw Wines The Smuggler’s Boot Pinot Noir 2019

The Brew Cru Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge Pinot Noir 2019

90+ Medals (alphabetical order):

Benguela Cove Wine Estate Pinot Noir 2020

Bosman Family Vineyards Magnum Opus Pinot Noir 2018

Bouchard Finlayson Tetê du Cuvée Pinot Noir 2019

Brew Cru Pinot Noir 2020

De Grendel Wines Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2019

Ghost Corner Pinot Noir 2019

Iona Vineyards Elgin Highlands Pinot Noir 2018

Lothian Vineyards Pinot Noir Vineyard Selection 2019

Lothian Vineyards Pinot Noir Vineyard Selection 2020

Ntida Pinot Noir 2020

Paul Cluver Wines Estate Pinot Noir 2020

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