Meet Jessica Saurwein, the Queen of Pinot Noir

It’s no coincidence that Jessica Saurwein has ‘wine’ in her surname. Born of a lineage of winemaking families who, in the 1700s, quite literally made wine for the Emperor of Austria, it is only fitting and just that she pursued a career as a winemaker. But what Jessica does with grape varietals like Riesling and Pinot Noir is closer to alchemy than winemaking. She has a talent and a tenderness for working with these notoriously finicky grapes (for the Western Cape). And the result is a repertoire of wines of such an exquisite calibre that the city’s finest restaurants have adorned their wine lists with her creations. 


Harvest 2020, photo by David Silverman

“It is my aim to achieve energy and harmony simultaneously in the wines. The hands-off winemaking approach allows me to be guided by the natural balance of the grapes. Overall, the grapes are worked very gently, if at all, and the use of cooling down the must and ferments where needed enables the wines to be an optimal and most complex expression of all nuances of the terroir.”


Jessica’s crowning achievements are the succulent, earthy Saurwein “Nom” Pinot Noir and elegant, perfumed Saurwein “Chi” Riesling. Made from grapes sourced from Elandskloof and Elgin, both wines have performed spectacularly since their maiden vintages, giving Jessica Saurwein the unofficial yet much-deserved title of Queen of Pinot Noir. And this year, with the release of the “Om” Pinot Noir 2020, I believe that sentiment has been more than reinforced.


This “Om” Pinot Noir originates from dryland vineyards in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, one of South Africa’s finest terroirs, and offers a totally different, though no-less compelling expression of this noble grape to its sister “Nom” Pinot Noir. The fact that Jessica can use her profound understanding of vine and vineyard to craft such distinct wines with minimal intervention is testament to her savant-like skills as a winemaker. And we’re here for it!