David Finlayson and Pieter van der Merwe looking for Diamonds in the Rough

Wednesday, 25 September, 2019
Dave March CWM
David Finlayson, the owner of Edgebaston, the home of Finlayson Family Wines, and co-winemaker Pieter Van Der Merwe, are always on the lookout for interesting grape varieties; “the less fashionable and less well-known”, says Pieter.

Pieter hales from the Free State and the family farm called ‘Sanniesrust’ but after falling in love with Stellenbosch, studying at Maties (“I probably went to more wineries than classes” says Pieter) and Elsenburg and doing stints at Warwick, (“harvest and cellar work for pocket money”) and Guardian Peak, he came to Edgebaston. Working with David, “he still has to learn things David has already forgotten” and they are constantly developing the cellars and vineyards at Edgebaston.

They have 17 hectares producing from their own vineyards and buy-in small parcels of grapes for their capacity (250 tonne) cellar, but they don’t follow any fixed requirements, or any winemaking recipes, and are always looking for something unusual or unloved in a vineyard, providing it has serious potential.

Their Rough Diamond Project is the home for any wines that show such potential. Currently there is a Tempranillo, deeper and fresher than many Riojas, with firm tannins and ripe fruit, but if their two rows of Tannat proved extra special, or the Viognier was standout in any vintage, or the parcel of Petit Verdot, they could also join the label.

Brand Ambassador Annemie Adriaanse says the Project wines, and Pieter’s own label, the Cinsault and Grenache (“never a blend”) of ‘Sanniesrust’, are really to stop David and Peter getting bored in the cellar,  “they’re their toys”, she says. The Grenache is favourite, with rich red berry layers, staying elegant throughout, the Cinsualt is lighter, nimble and precise.

“If we stumble upon something, a variety or vineyard less well-known, maybe not a commercial prospect, like the Tempranillo in 2016 which no-one seemed to want, it could make a small batch in an ‘egg’ (their concrete fermenting egg)”.  Pieter is always looking for drinkability, they “don’t make wines for tasting practice, it has to be lively and vibrant, but not at the expense of complexity”. 

The most recognisable wine brands are probably ‘The Pepper Pot’, ‘The Berry Box’ (Pieter says the Merlot ismany peoples easy way into wine)and the Cabernet Sauvignon- though Pieter says the 2018 Chardonnay is “the best I’ve ever made”.  Things get very interesting, though, with the icon ‘GS Cabernet Sauvignon’ (named after the illusive and iconic GS66 Cabernet) and the Camino Africana range. Limited amounts of Chenin Blanc (a contender for my ‘white wine of the year’ so far, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc (95 points any day) are currently under this label and prove wonderfully rich and textured, with such pristine and focused fruit, the latest releases are truly special.

Pieter enjoys the freedom they have with their winemaking and grape selection. He and David work together on all of their wines, and even with those under Pieter’s own label David is very much involved. The Edgebaston wines, the Sanniesrust wines, the Camino Africana range and the Rough Diamond Project wines are all products of collaboration and rather than the diversity proving difficult to manage, Pieter says it gives them more freedom, to search for more ‘diamonds in the rough’.



Pieter van der Merwe
Pieter van der Merwe

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