Despite the calls to duty asking us to embrace Chenin Blanc as the National South African White Grape and the reactionary colourful spats generated by the Sauvignon Blanc fraternity, there is only one real South African white wine worth taking to an international gun-fight, and he be Chardonnay.
It is the world’s greatest white grape and will be for time to come. And oh yes, South Africa makes stunning Chardonnays. (Anyone using the common term ?+¦?+º?+¦chard?+¦?+º?+æ for such a noble creature in my presence is bound to feel piercing wrath of a physical nature.)
Considering the popularity of wines made from Burgundian grapes, it must also be said that the general quality of South African Chardonnay is far superior to that of our Pinot Noir.
This point was again highlighted by Christian Eedes’s Chardonnay Report. Handled in conjunction with Sanlam Private Investments, this is the second Chardonnay Report Christian has put out. I am impressed by the under-the-radar, roo-rah-less way he goes about it. And as is the case with his Cabernet Sauvignon Report, the Chardonnay Report delivers to my mind a fair reflection of the terrific wines made in the country.
(Oh yes, to the Gunfight we South Africans can only take one wine, and that is Cabernet Sauvignon, so if Sanlam pull out of this venture Christian can always try to cop a sponsor from Soldier of Fortune magazine.)
What I Iike about this Report, is absolute focus and concentration on one variety. None of the clutter of varieties and styles one has to wade through in bigger competitions. And the results give a Chardonnay hombre like me an apt guide as to what respected tasters deem to be the big enchiladas on the local front.
This year’s Top 10 list includes the usual suspects Jordan, Hamilton Russell, Uva Mira, Hartenberg, as well as the Tokara Reserve Collection Walker Bay 2011 which has impressed me immensely of late.
That the hype around Elgin producer Almenkerk is for real, is vindicated. And Sumaridge’s reputation for impassioned Burgundian commitment has been awarded, with KWV’s rebirth through its Mentors range proving the KWV comeback to now be of Lazarus proportions.
And as a consumer, needing to be guided through the cluttered vinous wilderness, this consistency by producers in shining in selected line-ups enables the chaff to be separated from the wheat.
On the quality side, the Top 10 contains wines I have included in tasting-panels in Beaune, Burgundy where they have received unreserved Gallic recognition by those present. The Jordan Barrel Fermented 2011 is to my mind a more refined wine than the busty Nine Yards, a superb sultry expression of New World Chardonnay in-line with the very best such as Sonoma’s Hanzell and Cullen in the Margaret River.
Hamilton Russell’s Chardonnays do not exude as much vintage variation as the Pinot Noirs, consistently providing a Chassagne-Montrachet stony breath of white flowers, oyster shell and grilled almonds. As is the case in all Hamilton Russell wines, palate weight, length and memory drive this elegant wine.
Uva Mira is arguably the most uniquely flavoured Chardonnay in the country, the grapes taking on some gorgeously exotic characters from their surrounding wild veld conditions. And Hartenberg’s honeydew melon flavours and citrus notes make one remember that the reason Chardonnnay is the world’s most popular white variety, is because it is so damn delicious.
The full top top of the Christian Eedes Chardonnay Report
Jordan Barrel Fermented 2011 Price: R109 (to be released 1 November).
Uva Mira Single Vineyard 2011 Price: R200
Almenkerk 2011 Price: R145
Hamilton Russell Vineyards 2011 Price: R290
Hartenberg 2010 Price: R78
KWV The Mentors 2011 Price: R111
Radford Dale 2011 Not yet released.
Sterhuis Barrel Selection 2010 Price: R105
Sumaridge 2010 Price: R150
Tokara Reserve Collection Walker Bay 2011 Price: R121
For?+¦-+?+¡Christian’s blog and the?+¦-+?+¡full report, go over here.