David Finlayson likes to tell the story of the havoc he caused as an 11-year-old when, like any curious little boy would, he opened the valve on a 12000-litre tank to see how it worked and was washed off his feet by a tidal wave of Pinot Noir.
Whether that wine-wave at Blaauwklippen, where dad Walter was the winemaker, had anything to do with a later passion for surfing is anyone’s guess, but there’s certainly still an element of inventiveness and a sense of fun about Finlayson’s wine-making at the family’s Edgebaston winery.
The Finlayson roots run deep in the Cape wine industry – Scottish immigrant grandfather Maurice established Hartenberg in Stellenbosch, dad Walter founded Glen Carlou, where David cut his wine-making teeth, sister Carolyn Martin and her husband JC are the brains behind Creation, uncle Peter is the Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir pioneer of Bouchard Finlayson, and cousins Peter-Allan and Andrew have high-end boutique winery Crystallum, and Peter-Allan is also winemaker at Gabrielskloof.
About a decade after the Pinot Noir incident, David joined his father in building the reputation of Glen Carlou into a world-class South African winery, with David credited for the fame of Glen Carlou chardonnay.
After the sale of Glen Carlou to Swiss-based global wine investors, the Hess family, David bought Woodlands farm in Stellenbosch and renamed it Edgebaston – coincidentally both the original name of the farm and the area in England that his mom Jill came from.
Edgebaston’s “rock star”, The Pepper Pot, and The Berry Box, reflect that sense of inventiveness and fun.
The Pepper Pot, Finlayson says, is “the kid in torn jeans, making a noise and shocking its classy elders” – a non-traditional take on a traditional Rhone blend of Shiraz, Tannat, Mourvedre and Grenache, “unashamedly in your face with a million flavours”. All those flavours come together seamlessly in a wine that’s vibrant, fresh and juicy – and just plain enjoyable.
The Berry Box red – “imagine listening to Asian rock music while perusing a Matisse painting” – adds a Shiraz twist to a traditional Bordeaux blend, for an explosion of fruity flavours.
Berry Box white blends Semillon and Viognier – the Viognier fermented in a concrete egg to concentrate its heady fragrance and fruit – with Sauvignon Blanc, adding complexity and texture, and softening the Sauvignon. Super easy-drinking stuff that goes well with spicy food.
The Classics are Finlayson’s more serious single-varietal wines – an elegant, subtly lemony-vanilla 2015 Chardonnay balancing richness and limestone minerality; and a super fresh and juicy 2013 Pinot Noir, “new world” style with integrated, elegant savouriness.
The 2014 Syrah is a beaut – deep, dark and meaty with lots of juicy black fruit and a touch of leatheriness.
Finlayson’s intention is to make wines that are drinkable on release – like the “Christmas pudding in a glass” 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Although it’s definitely ageable, it’s a treat already – intense and dry with succulent plummy dark, dried fruit and those typical Cab notes of cedar and smokiness.
Most of the Edgebaston wines are quite widely available locally – the Pepper Pot and Berry Box red around R75, the white R60-odd, and the Classics around R95 for Chardonnay and R135 for the reds.
Tip of the week: Preston’s has some on special at the moment – Berry Box white R49, Chardonnay R79, Cabernet Sauvignon R99.