Clive Torr's Moon Tour

Tuesday, 17 August, 2004
Peter May
It was the phase of the moon that brought Clive Torr to London at the end of July. His 'ultimate aim is to tame Pinot Noir' and he follows twin philosophies: 'caressing it like a woman, in the hope it will give in' and bio-dynamics, where the moon's position plays a major role in winemaking.

Vinopolis's Great Hall  saw him pit his Topaz South African Pinot Noirs against similarly made Burgundys, and this was a contest he would win since all wines were his. He'd just bottled his 2002 Burgundy, under a crescent moon, and now was taking to opportunity to show his wines in London.

Clive Torr is a Cape Wine Master, former head of the Cape Wine Academy, and a South African; the last attribute being the most useful in Burgundy where the English are viewed with suspicion. He started to make wine on his car-port at home, using minimal equipment such as 2 litre plastic Coke bottles filled with ice to chill fermenting wine. When he applied to be a producer he was told he needed to own at least three hundred vines, a number relating to the amount historically needed to make a barrel of wine. Clive applied for producer status on the strength of vines he'd planted in his back garden. The Customs & Excise came to count each one then an official certificate was issued.

Then a stroke of luck saw him become the owner of a half-hectare of Pinot Noir in the village of Ladoix on the Cote de Beaune in the heart of Burgundy, and now he makes wine twice a year, in the Cape and Burgundy, using the same techniques, in barrels from the same cooper.

Topaz wines - his house winery is located in Topaz Street, Somerset West -are made mostly from grapes grown in Elgin. It needs cool weather and 'we're only starting to find the right places in the Cape to plant Pinot Noir' he says. His car port now has proper winemaking equipment and Clive has invented a technique for cold soaking; he anchors a 4.5Kg block of dry-ice at the bottom of the tank which prevents fermentation starting for three days while colour is extracted from grape skins. Carbon dioxide from dry-ice gently bubbles up through the juice making a layer on top preventing oxygen contact. Behind me a tutor from Plumpton College, Britain's viti & viniculture training centre, was taking notes and I heard her tell a colleague they would try the same method.

Topaz Pinot Noir 2003 13% alc
Made from Elgin fruit, this has an inky red colour, medium bodied with red cherry flavours, grippy and a little sour, with a tangy finish.

Topaz Pinot Noir 2002 13.8%
Half the grapes from Paul Cluver's farm in Elgin, the rest from Muratie Estate in Stellenbosch. Victoria plum colour, quink ink flavours, lacking in middle palate. Rather dumb. Clive remarked this wine was not his preferred style and that he would have liked it to be more feminine.

Domaine de Clivet AC Ladoix 2002
This was bottled just five days previously. Inky black, inky taste, a little rustic with a chalk dust texture.

Domaine de Clivet AC Ladoix 2000
Dark pink/brown colour, looks much older than it is. Cabbagy nose, soft and rounded with ripe cherry stone flavours and a tangy finish.

Domaine de Clivet AC Ladoix 1999
Surprisingly young looking, with a beautiful garnet colour, light bodied with cherry flavours.

Clive gave a dynamic and magnetic presentation, dropping esoteric facts about winemaking and his beloved Pinot Noir grape, dotted with gossip and blasts against arcane French bureaucracy. Many new world winemakers struggle with Pinot Noir, known as the heartbreak grape, and all acknowledge Burgundy, but Clive is unique by having a foot in both camps.

'You cannot really compare Topaz with Burgundy' he says, 'even with the same winemaker, cooper and methods they're different wines'.  

Topaz &  Domaine de Clivet  will be available in the UK from Jackson's Fine Wines in Liverpool and Topaz is stocked by Virgin Wines

Clive Torr
Clive Torr

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