Newton Johnson has long been one of the finest estates in Hemel-en-Aarde, in a large part thanks to winemaker Gordon Johnson and his wife Nadia. It is home to some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs you will find in the Capelands. “We have used no bâtonnage in recent vintages,” Gordon tells me. “The fermentations have increased from 8 to 12 weeks. In 2017 we used no SO2 before fermentation and I prefer to let the wine settle before any additions are made.” They are best known for their excellent range of Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, but do not overlook their Rhône inspired Granum, a wine so good that it begs the question whether Hemel-en-Aarde should look south of Burgundy for their inspiration!
Newton Johnson Granum 93/100
The 2016 Granum comes from the estate’s best, stoniest sites, containing around 30% Mourvèdre, and was matured entirely in puncheons and concrete vats rather than barriques. It has a tight-knit bouquet at first, offering blackberry, briar, fennel and light seaweed/marine scents that lend more complexity. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin and quite saline on the entry; white pepper and ginger infuse the blackberry and mulberry fruit. There is a floral note toward a finish that lingers nicely in the mouth, and a sustained spiciness that lasts 30 seconds or more.
Newton Johnson Full Stop Rock 92/100
The 2016 Full Stop Rock contains more Grenache than previous vintages, around 15% this year. It has a fragrant bouquet of raspberry, marmalade, iodine and, later, mulberry aromas. I appreciate the purity here. The palate is medium-bodied with white pepper, sage and a touch of fennel on the entry and a garrigue-like undercurrent beneath the red fruit. The finish is spicy and gently grippy. Excellent.
Newton Johnson Chardonnay 92/100
The 2017 Family Vineyards Chardonnay is a blend of three vineyards, both north- and south-facing, on more clay-rich soils than the Southend Chardonnay. This has more richness and depth on the nose than the Southend, featuring dried honey, white peach and light honeysuckle scents that waft temptingly from the glass. The palate is well balanced with topical tones – guava, passion fruit and a touch of yellow plum – and a fine thread of acidity on the persistent finish. There is weight but not heaviness to this Chardonnay, which is a real crowd-pleaser.
Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 91/100
The 2017 Family Vineyards Pinot Noir comes from the three main vineyards on the estate and saw 11 months in barriques with an extended élevage in stainless steel to enhance integration. It has a very attractive bouquet of red cherries, red plum and pressed rose petals. The palate is medium-bodied, showing impressive weight in the mouth while maintaining freshness. The 20% whole-cluster fruit adds just a little undergrowth element on the finish, completing what is a very fine Pinot Noir from Newton Johnson.
Newton Johnson Chardonnay Southend 90/100
The 2017 Southend Chardonnay, which comes from southfacing vineyards and saw little new oak (moving more toward puncheons instead of barriques), has a pleasant bouquet of light guava and peach skin. The palate is rounded and lightly honeyed on the entry, though this retreats to reveal a spicy, stem-ginger-tinged second half with commendable depth and length. Very fine.
Newton Johnson Resonance 88/100
The 2017 Resonance, a blend of 30% Sémillon and 70% Sauvignon, the former seeing partial new oak (15%), offers attractive pear, asparagus and light gooseberry scents on the nose. The palate is well balanced, displaying bell pepper and white pepper on the entry. Certainly one of the spicier Sauvignons I have tasted in the Cape, with good length on the finish.