Crystallum is a family run business, started by brothers Andrew and Peter-Allan Finlayson. Both brothers were originally students in other disciplines, with Andrew training to be an architect and Peter-Allan a student of philosophy and economics. Yet the allure of wine, which they so closely grew up with, was just too tempting. Consequently, Crystallum was created and opened in 2007. Their inspiration came from family, with their father, Peter, famously being the Cellar Master of Bouchard Finlayson, a renowned winery in Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa. Peter was supposedly the first winemaker to see potential in the Hemel-en-Aarde area, and his faith in the land created fantastic vineyards that produce top-quality wine, especially Pinot Noir. This led the Finlayson brothers to open Crystallum in Hemel-en-Aarde as they saw the same potential their as their father before them.
Crystallum's first focus was Sauvignon Blanc, which at one time they produced over 4,000 bottles of. Over the years they have changed their focus to making premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The combination of great passion for their product and a lifelong influence from their father, they were undoubtedly set up to create amazing wines.
Before the 1990s Hemel-en-Aarde was not recognized as a good region for grape growing, until Peter Finlayson arrived. Hemel-en-Aarde is located near Hermanus, which is in the well-known region of Walker Bay. This little pocket of land can be found in the north of Walker Bay, right on the coastline. Being so close to the coast, it is affected by the cold ocean winds coming from the South. This cools the ground and the air, making it perfect for cultivation of cool climate grapes, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The brothers are focused on making Burgundian styled wines and the Hemel-en Aarde enjoys a similar cool climate to that you would find in Burgundy.
The Crystallum approach to winemaking is influenced by Burgundy, but they are also advocates for showing their vineyards through their wine, applying an Old World sensibility to New World terroir. They use techniques such as malo-lactic conversion and lees contact, which are used to soften acidity and tannins in wine and are commonly used in France. They also use French oak, which contributes toasted, spicier notes to the final wine. However, the oak is used judiciously, usually with only part of the wine being matured in barrel, which helps the fruit character of the wine stay in the forefront. And as previously mentioned, both brothers are big on expressing their vineyards through the wine. Crystallum also consider themselves a minimal intervention producer. The winery doesn't add anything to the wines until after fermentation, allowing fermentation to occur via indigenous yeast, so all reactions happen naturally within the wine making. The next step for the brothers has been to get involved with the ownership of the vineyards, so they have more control over the growing of the grapes and their future quality.
Other than being extremely well known within the wine world. Crystallum have achieved official recognition in the form of awards and critical acclaim. Recently, in a tasting of single vineyard Pinot Noir organized by Decanter, Crystallum Cuvee Cinema 2018 was considered the top wine, winning with 98 points. Also, in a review from Tim Atkin MW, they were described as 'First Growth quality, with all 2017 wines rating between 93 and 96 points'. Crystallum's success is well deserved with the care and quality in which they make their wine, and they certainly have more to bring to the table with each year to come.