The Varietals 

Over half of the vines are cultivated under Pinot Noir, the rest being white grape varieties and small plantings of uncommon European vines. Selective vine planting balances the needs of conservation and biodiversity.


Synonyms: (Pineau de Bourgoyne, Noirien, Blauer Burgunder) 

This is the flagship cultivar of the estate. From the outset, Peter Finlayson recognised that Pinot would be uniquely suited to the terroir of the Hemel-en-Aarde valley. His devotion to this illusive grape has built a worldwide association of Pinot and the area. Good Pinots are only produced in cool regions – internationally associated with Champagne and Burgundy. The ripening conditions are very important. More fruitiness and softer tannins are ensured by slow ripening and cool conditions, for which the maritime mists in the valley are ideal. Pinot ripens from the end of January to the first half of February. The resulting wines are renowned for their pronounced strawberry character and soft tannins.


Sangiovese is believed to have been cultivated since Etruscan times in the area around Florence. Found throughout Italy, the cultivar is responsible for some of the country’s finest and most memorable wines. Ruby-red tending to garnet with age, its perfumes should be rich and full. Some tasters find hints of leather, tobacco, truffles, figs, mulberries, raspberries, vanilla and cinnamon on the nose. Young Sangiovese has a ripe cherry fruit flavour, with a cherry stone bitterness on the finish. Sangiovese is a major component in the Hannibal, which is our Franco-Italian red blend.


Barbera is found throughout its native Piedmont in northwestern Italy and it remains the most widely planted variety in that region. It is a vigourous variety that thrives on sand- or clay-based soils. However, many producers feel that it gives its most elegant results on limestone-rich soils in relatively cool regions. Barbera-based wines are usually intense ruby-red in colour, with purplish highlights when young. Their nose is fresh, with soft scents of ripe plum, sensations that are carried through onto the palate. This cultivar is used exclusively in the Hannibal blend.


Synonym: (Nebieul) 

Nebbiolo is the premium grape variety in Italy’s Piedmont region and has an affinity for hillside or even mountainous sites. It is thought to derive its name from the Piedmontese word ‘nebia’ which means fog – a reference to the thick, milky bloom that forms over the ripening fruit. Usually medium-deep ruby red with garnet to orange overtones; when Nebbiolo is aged in small, new oak barrels the colour is darker. Producing an exhilarating rush of freshness on the nose, followed immediately by warming broader elements, which can include cherries, plums, strawberries and raspberries. There are also darker tones of chocolate, hazelnut, liquorice, cinnamon and vanilla. This cultivar is used exclusively in the Hannibal blend.


Synonyms: (Shiraz) 

Syrah is a dark-skinned grape variety grown throughout the world and used primarily in red wines. The style and flavour profile of the wines is led by the growing climate. Moderate climates, like on the Bouchard Finlayson estate, tend to produce medium to full-bodied wines with medium-plus to high levels of tannins and flavours including blackberry, mint and black pepper notes. The resulting acidity and tannin levels allow the wines produced to have favourable aging potential. Syrah is used in the Hannibal blend.


Synonyms: (Mataro, Monastrell) 

Mourvèdre originates from Spain, producing dark red wines, high in tannins. It is a relatively warm-climate variety and is also fairly common in France’s wine-growing Provence region. In Australia it is often blended with Shiraz. Its taste varies greatly according to the area in which the vines are grown, but often has a wild, gamey or earthy character, with soft fruit flavours of blackberry. This cultivar is exclusively used in Hannibal.


Sauvignon Blanc has been grown in France for as long as anyone can remember. At its best, it should be aromatic and crisp, with plenty of vibrant character. The vines prefer a long, bright, cool ripening season, which is why we grow exceptional grapes in the cool, breezy, sunny vineyards of Bouchard Finlayson. The long growing and ripening season, plus a dip in temperature at night, mean that the fruity ripeness is coaxed out of the vine, while high acidity is retained for that essential zesty freshness. In additional to a single-varietal wine, we also use the Sauvignon Blanc in our Blanc de Mer white wine blend.


Synonym: (Pinot blanc Chardonnay, Auxerrois)

The Chardonnay grape variety is a classic white wine grape grown and favoured all around the world. Winemakers love Chardonnay because the vines are easy to grow and have a high yield. It is widely known for producing excellent full-bodied wines. The cooler-zoned climate Chardonnay grapes produce an abundance of fruit flavours with apple, pineapple, or the hint of peach. Chardonnay is ready to serve when it is sold and top Chardonnays improve for up to five years from bottling. The beauty of Chardonnay is that its high acids and full-bodied nature provide it great food matching versatility.


Chenin Blanc is a white wine grape variety from the Loire valley of France. It is the most widely planted variety in South Africa, where it is also known as Steen. The grape may have been one of the first to be grown in South Africa by Jan van Riebeeck in 1655 or it may have come with Huguenots fleeing France in 1685. It provides a fairly neutral palate for the expression of terroir, vintage variation and the winemaker's treatment. In cool areas the juice is sweet but high in acid with a full-bodied fruity palate. The best expression of Chenin as a dry wine, with flavours of quince and apples or an off-dry style, developing honey and floral characteristics with age. In the best vintages, the grapes can be left on the vines to develop noble rot, producing an intense, viscous dessert wine that may improve considerably with age.


Synonyms: (Rhein-Riesling, Rhine Riesling, White Riesling and Reno)

Although very good wines are produced in different countries, the German Rieslings are rated the best in the world. Weinner Riesling is well-adapted to different soil types but flourishes on medium potential soils in cool regions, ripening end of February to beginning of March. Wines can range from dry to noble late harvest and are very fragrant, but the dry wines can be very high in total acid content. Although this varietal is not used on its own in a cultivar wine, it plays a major role in the production of our Blanc de Mer.


Viognier is a white wine grape variety with the potential to produce full-bodied wines with a lush, soft character. The potential quality of Viognier is influenced by viticultural practices and climate. The grape requires a long, warm growing season in order to fully ripen but too much heat develops high levels of sugars and potential alcohol before the distinctive aromatic notes can develop. The Viognier varietal differs from Chardonnay through its more natural aromatics that include notes of peach, pears, violets and minerality. Preserving these delicate flavours requires a high level of winemaking skill for barrel fermentation.


Semillon grapes, underrated in much of the world, can produce arguably much more interesting, subtle and long-lived dry white wines than the Sauvignon Blanc that is so often grown alongside. Made well, dry Semillon can be an intriguing, full-bodied wine with a satisfying combination of citrus, honey and grassiness. Semillon is not difficult to grow and is naturally quite productive. Historically, it was the most planted grape variety in South Africa in the early 19th century – so much so that then it was actually just called ‘the wine grape’. It is now only the fifth most planted white wine grape but South Africa still produces a wide range of varietal dry Semillons as well some excellent dessert wines.

caring for nature

Conserving the Cape's rich floral kingdom

nature walks

Guided by our resident botanist

tasting notes

How to match wines and more

The Bouchard Finlayson WSET Scholarship