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  • Cathy Henderson

Beguiling grapes for the sweet spot

Updated: Jul 15, 2019

Dessert wines in SA are internationally renowned, and this special sweet from Shannon Wines in Elgin made with Pinot Noir grapes certainly has soulhere's why:


The 'special' mist at Shannon vineyards

I’m at the mercy of Macushla and was intrigued enough to investigate a little further. Sweet, seductive and soulful as it has something of story charm – three years of research went into these botrytised Pinot Noir grapes. Shannon Wine’s Macushla means ‘special loved one’, ‘darling’, or ‘my pulse’ in Gaelic (also close to my heart); it’s sure to cause a pleasant flutter.


James Downes, co-owner of Shannon wine farm in Elgin, explained the use of Pinot Noir – as it’s a fairly unusual choice for a Noble Late Harvest wine. He notes that the thin-skinned characteristic of the grape lends itself to this method of winemaking, conducive to the influence of botrytis (mould that can be used in a positive way as 'noble rot' on grapes used for certain wines). Shannon actually has a special 'mist' that helps with this, and so the wine has an appropriate acidity, which gives this refreshing lift. In Elgin, the tendency is to harvest Pinot Noir in late February and early March. James and his team had a chance to let the grapes hang a little longer – gaining the extra concentration from botrytis – with perfect conditions for making a Noble Late Harvest wine. Another motivation was that 2007 resulted in a few extra rows of Pinot due to a bumper crop. After working with Pinot Noir for 10 years, James has found an affinity for the grape and is curious about why there hasn’t been a lot more experimentation in the production of these dessert wines.


Macushla is a sublime finish to a heartfelt dinner, particularly with a summer berry pudding. Or you might feel inclined to pick your way through a cheese platter – the berry element of Pinot is not only a great fruit complement, but the acidity also provides that necessary balance.


With an RRP of R225, it's definitely one for the collection or 'special occasion sipping', particularly as four years on, it shows just why South African Dessert Wines often receive 5 Stars internationally.



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