It’s one week to go before the results of the most important local wine competition – the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show – are revealed, but already the buzz is going around that most of the excitement this year is going to come from Chardonnay.
Neal Martin, reviewer for the influential Robert Parker, stated last year that he thought the best whites we are currently making in SA are from Chardonnay and he was backed up by the entire panel which has apparently awarded the most Gold medals to the variety this year. All will be revealed on 30th May, but in the meantime (and without having a clue as to whether these particular wines entered or have won), here are five particularly fabulous examples which have come my way recently.
Groote Post Unwooded Chardonnay 2011 (R70 from the farm)
One of my favourite farms up the West Coast makes one of my favourite unwooded Chardonnays. You’d think it would be easier to make an unwooded than a wooded wine, but you have to watch the alcohol levels and stop the fruit from getting out of hand as well. Lukas Wentzel manages this perfectly here – lively acidity, plenty of orange citrus fruit and an excellent length.
Hoopenberg Integer Chardonnay 2009 (R90 from the farm)
I first tasted this wine a few years ago and I have a very strong feeling that the price used to be much higher than the current one. Which, since the quality doesn’t appear to have been affected, makes this a fabulous bargain for the price! Lots of yellow citrus fruit, mixed up in a melange of spice with a creamy backbone all balanced by elegant oak and zippy acidity. Nice.
La Motte Chardonnay 2010 (R98 from the farm)
Made from organically-farmed grapes which are then gently fermented in a combination of oak and stainless steel before being combined and left for a further 8 months in oak – you’d think this would be like drinking wood chips, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Wonderfully, beautifully, seamlessly integrated with even the well-judged low alcohol (12.8%) playing it’s part. I drank this with an ABC-er (Anything But Chardonnay) and after only half an hour, we fought over the final glass. Delicious
Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011 (R118 from the farm)
Last year, I liked the Oldenburg Chardonnay more than the Chenin and, although I think it might be touch and go, I have a feeling I’m going to feel the same this year too. I just love the minerality of this wine and its layers of texture and flavour make it really complex and interesting. I tasted it with lovely, chunky home-style Italian food at the launch but the soft, ripe fruit flavours and steely hint will go with almost anything.
Hartenberg ‘The Eleanor’ Chardonnay 2008 (R190 from the farm)
Even though this wine is now into its fourth year, this is a brand new release from Hartenberg. Carl Schultz doesn’t mess around when it comes to his premium range (his Stork Shiraz 08 has just waltzed off with top honours at the Syrah du Monde beating an incredible number of French and other countries’ Shirazes on the way) so they release it when it’s ready and not before. Fat and buttery, yet with an incredible elegance, pure yellow stone-fruit and a clean mineral edge to it. Perfectly balanced wine to drink or keep.