A pair of Hamilton Russells

I’m a great fan of taking time to get to know wines. Most of the wines featured here on this blog have been drunk, as opposed to those brief sniff and slurp encounters that happen at large tastings – where the palate is often physically fatigued, and where there can be significant carry-over effects from the wines preceeding.

So it’s been fun to spend a few nights with this pair of Hamilton Russells. They are among South Africa’s most celebrated wines. Pinot Noir, in particular, hasn’t found many vineyard sites in the Cape where it can deliver. But Hamilton Russell have developed quite a reputation for theirs. The 2008 is a difficult wine to assess: on a previous occasion I rated it lower. But spending some time with it, I think there’s something interesting here. The Chardonnay is fantastic, and I’m pleased that independently, six months apart, both times I have rated it, the score is the same.

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2009 Hemel en Aarde Valley, South Africa
13% alcohol. Beautifully complex Chardonnay. Pithy, fresh and citrussy with some white peach and pear fruit, as well as aromatic honeysuckle and nut notes. There’s also a bit of wood spice. Lively, concentrated and intense with tangy lemon and grapefruit freshness. Drink now, or leave to mellow with age. 92/100

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008 Hemel en Aarde Valley, South Africa
13.5% alcohol. Pale cherry red colour. Fresh, savoury, spicy nose with some hints of earth and roast coffee. Quite tight, and perhaps a little reduced. The palate shows bright, fresh berry fruits with green sappy notes, and some stern grippy, savoury structure. A fine expression of Pinot that avoids over-extraction but needs some time to shed its savoury youthfulness. Evolves nicely over a couple of days. 91/100

UK agent: Hallgarten Druitt

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

2 comments to A pair of Hamilton Russells

  • I stayed with Anthony Hamilton Russell a few years ago. We did a vertical of both the Pinot Noir’s and Chardonnays. Amazing! Fantastic place and amazing landscape! The Pinot Noir has great aging potential, so I have kept a few bottles hidden in a safe place :)

  • Andrew Halliwell

    I take your point about drinking wines over a few days, rather than an instant decision in a big tasting line up and it sounds like you’ve made a real effort to enjoy this Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir. Maybe it’s a bit young and maybe it will evolve into something brilliant when it sheds its savoury youthfulness and grippy structure. The few times I’ve had it, I’ve never really enjoyed it and never thought it was worth the money. For Pinot Noir give me New Zealand every time – always delicious from the word go.

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