“Ripe fresh citrus flavours. A creamy edge that adds depth from careful oaking which settles like a light silk scarf. A stunner.” Wine lovers celebrating the debut of De Grendel Op die Berg Chardonnay 2013, give the new offering a thumbs up.
True to his view that quality is a journey, not a goal, De Grendel cellar master Charles Hopkins took his time to craft this classically styled chardonnay, allowing the wine itself to show the way. Made with grapes from the vineyards on a Witzenberg apple farm on the Ceres Plateau, the journey of De Grendel Op die Berg Chardonnay was serendipitous.
The fact that the grapes come from a vineyard on top of the Witzenberg Mountains, has special significance for us”, says De Villiers Graaff, director of De Grendel Wines. “The family has a long history in Ceres, starting with my great uncle Dawie, and now cousin Pieter and brother Robert farming there. The area is unique in the Western Cape and a perfect terroir for chardonnay grapes.
Hopkins explains furthermore:
“While we grow chardonnay at De Grendel, the varietal was also exclusively grown for our Winifred white blend by apple farmer Pieter Graaff. The conditions on this apple farm proved to be perfect. Cultivated at very high altitude (964m) in soft shale, together with very cold temperatures ideal for late ripening, the grapes captured all the positive characteristics needed to make a benchmark chardonnay. It was simply too exceptional to be blended in, leading to our decision to focus on this wine, rather than continuing with the much-loved Winifred blend.”
Hopkins and his team took their time in getting it right, tinkering with the 2012 harvest in small tanks and barrels, adjusting this, adjusting that, playing with length on the lees and malolactic fermentation, to determine the direction the wine wanted to go. “With the 2013 harvest we believe we nailed it, launching De Grendel Op die Berg Chardonnay 2013.”
He gives Pieter Graaff credit for his dedication to growing the grapes. “To experience the perfection and pride that an ‘apple man’ put into these vineyards was one of the highlights of this process. He was there every step of the way. All this care and commitment resulted in the healthiest of grapes, Utopia for a winemaker.”
The end result is a complex wine with substance and structure, and in Hopkins’ words, with a ‘breëbek mouthfeel” and devoted food partner. “I was an impressionable young winemaker when I had my best ever encounter with chardonnay at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Aloxe-Corton, Burgundy. With good food, our chardonnay rekindles the memory of that sublime experience.”
De Villiers says that he didn’t always like chardonnay, due to it being over-wooded sometimes. “The Op die Berg Chardonnay however is delicately oaked, smooth and not overbearing at all and I am it’s biggest fan. It goes perfectly with food, be it fresh galjoen or a juicy steak.”
Chef Ian Bergh of De Grendel Restaurant also looked towards the new chardonnay for his interpretation of Modern Cape Town Cuisine. “As much enjoyment as Charles and his team had in the cellar, we had in the kitchen dreaming up dishes to match the fresh citrusy flavours and soft vanilla notes.” His culinary tinkering resulted in moist poached chicken breast with pea tortellini, chardonnay velouté and courgette ribbons. For a special treat a dish of Cape rock lobster, langoustine, sea bass and a rich risotto, cooked in a stock reduction of roasted seafood shell and chardonnay, also celebrate the food-loving temperament of the wine.
Only 450 cases of the 2013 vintage is available. “Convincing the apple farmer to plant an extra 2 hectare of chardonnay, De Grendel will increase production over time to 1 000 cases,” assures Hopkins. The De Grendel Op die Berg, wine of origin Ceres Plateau range will also include a pinot noir, to be released jointly in the future.
The wine is available at De Grendel cellar and tasting room, and online through shop.degrendelwineclub.co.za. Limited numbers are available to club members, and at selected specialist wine shops. Cellar door price: R150
VINEYARDS: Situated on top of the Witzenberg Mountain in Ceres, this chardonnay vineyard has been established on a family farm famous for apples and pears. This newly declared appellation is situated 964m in altitude, with soft shale soils and extremely cold winters. In some years the vines are completely covered in snow during winter – unique in South Africa and making the climate truly continental and ideal for chardonnay in particular.
VINIFICATION: Grapes are all hand-picked and brought to De Grendel. The fruit is in an immaculate condition due to the cool ripening temperatures.
In the cellar the grapes are crushed, and juice settled with a recovery of only 600 litre per ton. 40% of the juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks and 60% in 225 litre French barrels. The barrel fermentation further differs as half of the barrels ferment in our barrel room at 16 degrees Celsius, while the other half of the barrels are fermented at 18 degrees Celsius and are also inoculated for malolactic fermentation, resulting in an even richer style.
The wine ages for 8 months on the lees (Sur Lie) in the barrels where the lees will be stirred in some cases or the barrels rolled in other. This enhances the mouth feel and the structure of the wine. Blended, these 3 components create a complex wine with layers of fresh citrus fruit, soft vanilla flavors and a structured mouth feel.
TASTING NOTES: The wine has a bright green to straw hue. On the nose citrus flavours of grapefruit and marmalade are supported by soft vanilla undertones on the palate. Great length and weight in the structure of the wine results in an ideal food partner.
AGEING POTENTIAL: Potential to mature for the next 4 to 5 years resulting in an even fuller and richer wine.
The residual Sugar is 2.4 g/l; the pH 3.18; total Acidity 5.9 g/l and alcohol 13.5%
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Online store: shop.degrendelwineclub.co.za