Two exceptional Bouchard Finlayson wines for your collection


IT’S not every day you have a living wine legend in your lounge, unless you’re a personal friend or family member related to Peter Finlayson. This, along with having virtually personal access to top chefs, was one of the benefits of lockdown…at levels that now seem so very far away.

How weird has it been? I’m a terrible photo hoarder, always telling myself “oh that’s quite nice, I can edit it and use it…somewhere” and then I never do. Instead, I amuse myself by scrolling through the thousands of memories. Sometimes I cry too. And when I see pics of various food deliveries and whatnot that were taken maybe two months ago and it feels like another, crazy, lifetime. I mean – banana bread. When last did you even think of that? And not being able to sleep? No haircuts and all the men we know grew beards behind their masks; it was a very dark time.

But back to the legend. Peter Finlayson was named Wine Legend of 2020 by Tim Atkin in his South Africa Special Report, which was released – wait for it – less than a month ago. There was a mad flurry of wineries and winemakers sharing all their wonderful wines which had scored excellent marks. It’s gone all quiet again now, like those stupid Facebook avatars which were inflicted on our timelines for 24 hideous hours, then poof! Gone.

Finlayson’s accolade is so well-deserved, and all I can wonder is why it took this long. His response was as follows: “Hello Tim, Thank you! I am feeling very emotional at receiving such strong recognition. Your support is very much appreciated and I am not ashamed to say that I’m bursting with pride at this super accolade. Most of all it is wonderful to still be enjoying the sport of wine…where my immediate reaction is ‘long may it last’.

“I have much to be grateful for, this includes family success and the parallel journey of flying on a magic carpet during this unique phase surrounding Pinot Noir’s discovery of our vineyard ‘hot spots’ outside of Burgundy.

“It is enormously comforting to observe the success and development of the Hemel-en-Aarde region where I spent the first five years having to dodge the historical ‘wine police’ in order to capture and produce the first Hamilton Russell Pinot noir wines, this going back to 1981-1985. I have also coined the phrase that ‘we enjoy the oldest terroir in the world’. Our 350-million-year-old Bokkeveld shale soils have simply been waiting to be discovered and the fact that it has taken 350 million years is an academic accident but the results are finally being reaped.

“I look forward to connecting again with you where we can share a glass of latest offerings and toast our fellow winemakers and salute their every effort at making wines of outstanding merit! Best wines and big thanks, Peter.”

Through the magic of Zoom and enforced (now voluntary, I must confess) virtual events due to social distancing and other bans, Finlayson – along with Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa chef Christo Pretorius and sommelier Gregory Mutambe – were beamed into my very home so we could enjoy a tasting of two superb Bouchard Finlayson wines and watch Pretorius effortlessly prepare two paired dishes involving various higher grade kitchen techniques.

Cured fish

There had been a brief moment of panic when the details of the evening’s proceedings arrived via email, with the recipes. “What?” I screeched. “I can’t sous vide or smoke things!” I was calmed by the explanation that this element was purely for our entertainment and to illustrate dishes that would pair well with the wines.

“The flagship Chardonnay, the seamless Missionvale 2018 – the wine’s mineral intensity and citrus flavours of grapefruit and lemon rind – will pair perfectly with Christo’s citrus and herb cured sustainable fish. It will be followed by the world renowned Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2018 paired with Christo’s famous Bonsmara beef fillet. This wine exhibits the generous texture of the vintage, moderately rich yet supple and complements the earthiness of the Bonsmara beef’s artichoke puree, soy truffle cream and exotic mushroom accompaniments.”

FYI Bonsmara is a type of cow. I had to Google that.

Bonsmara beef fillet

It was so lovely to have Finlayson right there, describing his wines. My big takeaway from this was him saying Chardonnay is a strong white wine, and you should drink it like you would a red wine. An older comment of his about the Galpin Peak Pinot Noir is “I have maintained that Pinot noir is like opera! When it is great it is pure seduction, almost hedonistic. There is no middle road.”

Like some people I know.

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