The elegance of Shannon Vineyards’ Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir applauded by critics.

Situated high on the western rim of the picturesque cool-climate Elgin Valley, and owned by brothers James and Stuart Downes, Shannon Vineyards, a small family-run farm, has developed a reputation for quality wines, producing three highly acclaimed site-specific wines: Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc, Mount Bullet Merlot and Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir as well as the unique Macushla Pinot Noir Noble Late Harvest.

The Shannon Vineyards Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir, as with their other site specific wines, has developed a fine pedigree over the last few years, gathering praise as a wine to be reckoned with. This acclaim includes: regular 4½-star ratings in the Platter’s guide, several nominations for Platter’s 5-star rating, and scores above the venerable 90-point barrier from various highly regarded international and local wine critics, including UK wine writer and international wine judge, Tom Cannavan, on Wine-pages.com, and Certified Sommelier, Miguel Chan, who commented: “…the purity and concentration of fruit is mind boggling, and this is another wine from Shannon Vineyards that is just fantastic, WOW”.

The Shannon Vineyards Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir was also recently honoured by Classic Wine magazine, being hailed as one of their top six wines in their ‘niche reds’ category tasting, as a stellar example of Pinot Noir and given a 4-star rating for both the 2011 and 2012 vintages, Interestingly, three of the top six niche reds were Pinot Noirs from cool-country Elgin, which seems to be proving an excellent location for this variety: where the growing conditions on the south-facing slopes are similar to Burgundy, the traditional home of Pinot Noir.

In each category tasting, the Classic Wine panel select their top investment wines which will benefit greatly from a few years cellaring.

Carrie Adams, well-known wine retailer and journalist, said, ““The star of the investment portfolio of Niche Reds would have to be the Shannon Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir 2011. It has it all: elegance, polish, balance and careful oak. Pinot Noir requires a cool climate for optimal development and steady ripening, with adequate water and decent air movement to limit fungal infestations in the tightly bound bunches. Looking for a vineyard site to tick all these boxes, one need look no further than Shannon.”

The purity and concentration of fruit is mind boggling, and this is another wine from Shannon Vineyards that is just fantastic. ~ Miguel Chan

The recently released Rockview Ridge 2013 vintage has already received some glowing reports, being described as “Easily one of the most impressive Pinots ever tasted out of South Africa”, by Rootstock Specialist Wine Merchants in the United Arab Emirates.

Tasting notes: The 2013 Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir displays typical Burgundian complexity, with ripe cherry, raspberry and strawberry notes backed by hints of truffle, mushroom and spice. The wine is elegant and textured with a firm lively structure, smooth ripe tannins, terrain-driven minerality and impressive purity of fruit. Rich and complex, this Pinot Noir has great depth and long, lingering power at the finish.

Approximate retail price: R250

Suggested food pairing: Perfect with a succulent rare fillet with porcini sauce or slow-roasted duck.

It has it all– elegance, polish, balance and careful oak. A great example of Pinot Noir both aesthetically and viticulturally. It is delicious and once in a while you taste something forever memorable. ~ Carrie Adams

The Elgin Valley is the coolest wine-growing area along South Africa’s south coast. Situated on an inland plateau, surrounded by mountains, it is a mere 10km from the icy Atlantic Ocean. Vineyards benefit from high altitudes situated some 300 metres and more above sea level. Cold winters with abundant rainfall are followed by cooling winds in the summer months. The ‘Black South-Easter’, known for its gusting cold winds and rain showers, is the result of strong summer south-easterly maritime winds blowing off the South Atlantic Ocean. This creates a cloud mantle across the Elgin Valley, markedly lowering day- and night-time temperatures.

This cool climate allows for slow ripening of the grapes and the development of intense fruit flavours, complexity with a broad spectrum of flavours, freshness and elegance, minerality, good natural acidity, purity of fruit and superb ageing potential. An endless series of rolling hills set in an undulating countryside, and ancient soils, present the perfect opportunities for premium vineyard site selection. The Elgin Valley has some of the country’s most highly regarded winemakers establishing vineyards in the area – testament to its obvious winemaking potential. In keeping with an ethos of sustainable wine production, vines grow alongside pristine mountain fynbos in the Kogelberg Biosphere, a Unesco heritage site and part of the spectacular Cape Floral Kingdom.

What lies behind Shannon Vineyards’ success as a producer of top-order wines? It is the combination of several factors:

· The farm’s high-altitude setting within the cool-climate Elgin Valley;
· High winter rainfall (annual rainfall is over 1 000mm);
· The cooling early morning mist effect created by the Palmiet River’s cold water flowing down from the mountain overnight. This cooling mist effect is beautifully portrayed by the swirling design of the Shannon Vineyards logo and is captured on Shannon Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wine labels, honouring its contribution to the farm’s unique terroir.
· The huge emphasis placed on selection and identification of the best vineyard sites;
· The right vineyard combination of ancient soils, clones and rootstock;
· Dedication to impeccable vineyard management, viticulture principles and practices that ensure the ultimate expression of their unique terroir in their wines;
· And a devoted and passionate team who deliver on excellence in the vineyards and the cellar.

Easily one of the most impressive Pinots ever tasted out of South Africa. ~ Rootstock Specialist Wine Merchants in the United Arab Emirates

James Downes runs the farm with meticulous attention to detail and dedication to impeccable viticulture principles. His brother, Stuart, is the very experienced marketing arm of the Shannon team. Winemaking is in the very capable hands of the experienced winemaking duo of Gordon and Nadia Newton Johnson of Newton Johnson Vineyards’ fame, with whom the Downes Brothers have a long friendship and a thirteen harvest relationship. Meticulous attention in the vineyards continues into the multi-level cellar in the Upper-Hemel-en-Aarde Valley which makes use of all the latest gravitational engineering principles and grape-sorting techniques, ensuring that the grapes benefit from minimal handling throughout the winemaking process. It is this close working relationship between the Newton Johnson family and Downes brothers over the years that has made this journey so successful. 

The name Shannon Vineyards pays homage to the Irish ancestry of the Downes brothers. Their paternal forefathers, the Shannon and Downes families, hailed from County Cork, Ireland. On their mother’s side, the James family were wine merchants and former owners of the White Horse Pub (1882) in Parsons Green, the City Arms (in the City of London), the Rising Sun (Battersea) and the Marlborough (Chelsea).

Shannon Vineyards also produce two other highly acclaimed site-specific wines and a unique Pinot Noir Noble Late Harvest:

· Shannon Vineyards Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2014, retailing for about R105;
· Shannon Vineyards Mount Bullet 2012, retailing for around R285;
· Shannon Vineyards Mascushla Pinot Noir Late Harvest 2012, retailing at about R185 for a 375ml bottle.

Shannon Vineyards is open for wine-tasting by appointment only.

In the vineyard: As with the Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc and the Mount Bullet, the Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir is named after the peak above the vineyards. The aim in the pinot noir vineyards is to produce grapes which generate a wide spectrum of flavours, and to express that all-important “texture” one finds in top-end pinot noirs. Huge emphasis is placed on vineyard site selection and identification. There are 12 different vineyard blocks of pinot noir, each vineyard with its different soil type (within the variations of three basic components of the soil: clay, sand, and stone) being planted to pre-determined site-specific Dijon clones. A lot of time and energy has been invested in researching the expressions of these different Dijon clones, producing a character profile for each block over the vintages. These are expressed in a range of flavours from vibrant raspberry, strawberry, currant and cherry. It is this vital vineyard information that helps Shannon Vineyards decide which blocks to select. Each parcel is vinified and matured separately to enhance its individuality, before combining in the final blend. Presently only 5 of the 12 Pinot Noir vineyards are used for the final blend, with 68.75% older Dijon clones (PN 113 and 115) and 31.25% newer Dijon clones (PN 667 and 777).

In the cellar: The Pinot Noir bunches are chilled to 3°C before being sorted on a conveyor and de-stemmed. Berries are then hand-sorted, before cold maceration ensues for 3 to 6 days. Slower-fermenting cultured yeasts are used for some of the fermentations while ± 45% of the blend is fermented with natural yeasts. After pressing, the wine is racked and left to complete its malolactic fermentation and maturation, for about 12 months, in 228-litre oak barriques – using a blend of three Burgundian cooperages – medium toasted with a tighter grain. (New oak – 30%, 2nd fill – 40%, and 3rd fill – 30%).

Visit www.shannonwines.com.

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