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Oak Valley

Oak Valley

by Christopher Rawbone-Viljoen

The daring history of the dijon clones

Similar to the concept of terroir, a French term used to describe how the vineyard environment, including soils and climate, influence the way that grapes express themselves in wine, so the existence of clones greatly influences wine expression and final blending decisions.

What is a clone? Within each variety a range of clones exist. A clone is a natural mutation that has been selected for its positive differences i.e. grape colour, bunch size, yield, ripening window etc. 

This bit of history is taken from The Prince of Pinot;
In the 1950’s the vineyards in Burgundy were performing poorly due to viral infestation, late harvests, and susceptibility to rot. Winemakers in Burgundy were dissatisfied with the quality of their wines. It was around this time that Dr Raymond Bernard of the University of Dijon came up with the idea of clonal selection, that is, taking buds from vines showing no evidence of viral disease and possessing desirable characteristics to create mother vines. These mother vines would be then be used to establish new healthy vineyards, thereby improving the quality of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines in Burgundy.

Initially, Bernard’s ideas were scorned by many vignerons in Burgundy and he was forced to use his own money and resources to conduct research. One vigneron who did support Bernard was Jean-Marie Ponsot, who offered budwood from his Clos de la Roche vines in Morey-St.-Denis as a source of material for Bernard’s early clonal trials. These cuttings provided the source for Dijon clones 113, 114 and 115, among others. With time, he expanded his research, obtaining cuttings from many vineyards in Burgundy and beyond.

By the 1960’s, Bernard had received the support of the French Ministry of Agriculture leading to increased funding of his research.

In 1984, Oregon State University persuaded Dr. Bernard to share some of his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay clones with Oregon which arrived in 1987 and 1988. The laboratory technicians at Oregon State University nicknamed the imported cuttings, “Dijon clones,” after the return address on the shipping container. The name has now become part of viticulture lexicon.
These registered Burgundy clones included Pinot Noir 113, 114, 115, 667, 777 and Chardonnay 76, 95 and 96.

Today, there are about 43 certified Dijon clones of Pinot Noir and 15 are significantly propagated throughout the world for Pinot Noir still wine. Each clone makes a personality statement. There are probably anywhere from 200 to over a 1,000 genetically unique Pinot Noir clones, a reflection of Pinot Noir’s genetic instability.

Our Tabula Rasa, Latin for ‘clean slate,’ is aimed at gaining a better understanding of our individual vineyard sites and the clonal differences, which guides how we approach the final blend of our Groenlandberg wines.

Jacques, our winemaker, applies the same winemaking techniques so that all wines start with a clean slate and the differences are a true expression of the clones.

Tasting these differences in the final wines is where it gets interesting. In Chardonnay they differ mainly in terms of fruit expression or weight. Leaner/mineral (CY95) vs aromatic/textured (CY548).

In Pinot the differences are often in structure (acidity, tannin, colour density) and flavour profile, earthy/savoury vs abundant red fruit.

Single Dijon Pinot clones do not usually make a complete wine, which is why the 5-star clean sweep of our 2018’s is quite remarkable. Most Pinot’s are a blend of three or more Dijon clones.

We have limited quantities of our 2018 vintages available. The wines have matured beautifully, order a bottle before they disappear!

Oak Valley Tabula Rasa
Tabula Rasa Chardonnay CY95 2018         4.5-star Platter | 20 cases left
Tabula Rasa Chardonnay CY548 2018       5-star Platter | 12 cases left
Tabula Rasa Pinot Noir PN114 2018          5-star Platter | 22 cases left
Tabula Rasa Pinot Noir PN115 2018          5-star Platter | 14 cases left
Tabula Rasa Pinot Noir PN667 2018          5-star Platter | 18 cases left
Tabula Rasa Pinot Noir PN777 2018          5-star Platter | Platter Pinot Noir of the

Wine Club Member R560 incl. Normal R700 incl. per bottle.
Free delivery for orders over R1,800.
To order, email Carissa at or call 021 859 4110.

James Pietersen from Wine Cellar wrote;

The PN114 Pinot Noir 2018 is at the foot of the Groenlandberg, a tiny 0.7 hectares of Bokkeveld shale over clay. It is the most textured of the four Pinots, and super refined and detailed. Chalky and precise and just so on point!

The three 2018 South Ridge Pinot Noirs are from a high-density vineyard on clay-rich Bokkeveld shale soil, which leads to some amazing flavour concentration. The South Ridge PN115 Pinot Noir is aromatic and pure; 115 is generally regarded as a more structure-giving clone.

The South Ridge PN777 is beauty personified – pretty and detailed, a clone that usually offers fleshier fruit and perfume.
Like the 777, the 667 clone proffers dark fruit, and the South Ridge PN667 shows exactly that – juicy black berry seduction.

Take care,
Christopher Rawbone-Viljoen

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