De Wetshof, A celebration of chardonnay tasting 2008

I attended the first de Wetshof Chardonnay tasting in 2006  – a roll call of the Cape’s top Chardys.  A much larger panel (South African wine writers, winemakers and an anonymous consumer ) made this selection.  While the tasting inevitably involved some repetition from 2006, there was no hesitation or deviation when it came to my RSVP – a fervent yes please, count me in for the second, 2008 Chardy showcase!  And I was not disappointed – some cracking wines and the numbers up with some relatively new players (marked by this symbol: *) strutting their stuff together with the old faithful.

By way of background, de Wetshof’s Danie de Wet has championed Chardonnay in South Africa, helping to bring in Burgundy clones and adopting a Burgundian, parcellated approach to his own Robertson vineyards.

Thelema Chardonnay 2006 (Stellenbosch) – a rich, ripe nose and palate with honey, peach, figs and nuts; powerful and a tad warm.

Hartenberg Eleanour Chardonnay 2005 (Stellenbosch) * – a very pronounced white peach and nougat/praline character to both nose and palate. Could be cloying but a tightly coiled citric core keeps this wine in check and suggests that it has plenty to give yet.

Waterford Chardonnay 2006 (Stellenbosch) * – a fresh, floral nose, with a pretty palate of white peaches and flowers; subtlely creamy and buttery.

Springfield Estate Methode Ancienne Chardonnay 1999 (Robertson)
– in 2006, Springfield showed the oldest wine – a 2002, so here’s the gauntlet again with an even older vintage 2 years down the track.  It bears similarity to the 2002 with its developed, spicy orange peel nose and palate; though this is not a style to my taste it challenges perceptions that New World Chardonnays are all forward, early drinking styles.

Chamonix Reserve Chardonnay 2007 (Franschhoek) *
– quite different in style with subtle, gently ripe and silky poached pears to the nose and palate; citrus acidity pushes out the palate, giving peristence.  Delicious.

Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay 2007 (Walker Bay) –  a bit reduced but in a flinty, good way with vibrant grapefruit and white peach; attractively dry.

Ataraxia Chardonnay 2007 (Elgin/Walker Bay) * – ex-Hamilton Russell winemaker Kevin Grant own wines have been showered with awards and rightly so.  This is very tight, elegant and mineral with grapefruit; positively dry and savoury.  Lots of potential; a sparkling performance.

Vergelegen Reserve Chardonnay 2006 (Stellenbosch)
– consistently well-made, text book clean and polished with white peach fruit.

Glen Carlou Quartz Stone Chardonnay 2006 (Paarl) – out of condition/oxidised.

Rustenberg 5 Soldiers Chardonnay 2006 (Stellenbosch) – powerful, tensile nose and palate with a tight citric backbone and a rippling, muscular structure; long, powerful and ageworthy.  Very good indeed – reminds me of Leeuwin Estate Art Series.

Mulderbosch Barrel-fermented Chardonnay 2006 (Stellenbosch) –  very tight, with citrus (grapefruit) and savoury characters; precise.

De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay 1998, in magnum (Robertson)
– developed with nutty, toasty, autolytic notes to nose and palate, a savoury wine with nougat and marzipan but sufficient defining/balancing acidity.  Drink up.

Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay 2006 (Stellenbosch)
– crisp, long and intense with lifted apple blossom, lime zest and white peach and subtle honey notes.  Great poise; lots of ageing potential.

Uva Mira Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 (Stellenbosch) * –  savoury and yet pretty with floral, white peach and roasted hazelnut fresh palate.  Well made.

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2006 (Walker Bay) – very vibrant, with floral hints, bracing, steely grapefruit, hints of smoky hazelnut and a cool clay/ mineral undertow; tight lemony acidity/a citric backbone suggests this will keep very well.  Top.

Sarah Ahmed
The Wine Detective
26 September 2008

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