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The 6 best wooded Chardonnays for Summer

The only Chardonnay guide you need for the cooler box this summer, says Cathy Marston.

14 Dec 2016

(Image iStock)

If you’re an ABC-er (Anything But Chardonnay) then you might be better off skipping this article because my bet is that actually, it’s not the grape you dislike, but almost certainly the wood. And all these 6 wines have plenty of that but it’s all wonderfully-balanced and managed and really, if you were ever going to reach out from your comfort zone and try a wooded wine, these are great examples to go with. 

La Motte Chardonnay 2015 R110

Here we go with the first of three Chardonnays from a region more commonly associated with Semillon – Franschhoek. Unsurprisingly, because it’s La Motte, it’s at an incredibly-good value price for this level of vinous expertise which has seen cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche combine 2/3rds wooded and 1/3 unwooded wine to create a fresh and lively wine, edged around with just a delicate hint of creamy citrus and lime marmalade. 

Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2014 R150
There’s lots of change here on this French-owned estate at the foot of the Banghoek Pass, including a fabulous new restaurant with Joostenberg’s Christophe Dehosse incorporating valley views for days. The wines all have a new look as well, a bit more modern and funkier but they are still as tasty as ever. This one spent 10 months in a mixture of new and French oak and is an excellent example of perfect balance  with citrus and melons graciously sharing space with toasty vanillins and spice. There’s an unwooded version as well if you’re an unrepentant ABC-er.

Rietvallei JMB Chardonnay 2015 R160
This is the premium range from Rietvallei and has benefitted from plenty of care and attention in its making. Natural ferment, new oak, lots of fruit selection and – interestingly – no malo-lactic allowed which explains the lovely, fresh element to this wine. It comes from Robertson which has chalky/limestone soils which are perfect for this grape and has enough intensity and complexity to keep together for another good few years.

Maison Chardonnay 2014 R180
Following Eat Out’s Top 10 success for the restaurant, it seemed fitting to toast the team at this Franschhoek cellar with their own Chardonnay. I’m really enjoying Franschhoek Chardonnays at the moment and this is a great example – spending 7 months in small French oak barrels to give the crisp citrus notes a pleasing buttery/spicy tang. The chef recommends it with an interesting combination of linefish, gooseberries and leeks – sounds weird, but definitely worth a try!

Holden Manz Chardonnay 2015 R195
As I say, Franschhoek Chardonnay is definitely a ‘thing’ in my life at the moment and this is a delicious example. With a label you couldn’t possibly miss (jazzy orange edging ensuring plenty of shelf appeal) and a palate packed with layers of orange citrus, white flowers and well-managed oak giving hints of toffee and vanilla, this is a classy wine, well-suited to a celebratory dish of elegant seafood at a Christmas Day braai.

Neil Ellis Whitehall Chardonnay 2015 R225
It can be quite easy to forget how much the SA wine world owes Neil Ellis – and then you get a press release revealing that not only was he the first to make an Elgin wine at all, but also the first to make a Chardonnay from what is now thought of as one of the premium Chardonnay producing regions of SA. This is actually a maiden release under this label and is made by Neil’s son Warren who has taken up the winemaking helm with great skill. Wonderfully-integrated already with plenty of depth of flavour and time to come.

- Cathy Marston

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