Elgin Chardonnay Cool Enough for a King


Steve McQueen, the King of Cool.
Steve McQueen, the King of Cool.

In the good old days the boasting of gentlemen would mostly be confined to matters physical or material. Serious guy-stuff. Like who does the best air-guitar to “Stairway to Heaven”, which of you can consecutively inhale two Gauloise unfiltered and who can give the most graphically enthralling description of what it really was like getting to first base with the vampish Veronica Dimpelbosch.

But now everybody seems to spend time bragging about how cool the area is in which they make wine. Cool as in low temperature chilliness and not trendy.

“My grapes grow in the Alpine conditions of Elgin, really cold, like, they only grew apples here a few decades ago as the region was presumed to be too cold for grapes. Freezes the Veritas stickers of a bottle of KWV Muscadel it does.”

“Nah, Brother. I farm wine in the Koue Bokkeveld, at 450 metres, cold enough to chill the curlers out of an Eskimo housewife’s under-rods. Hectic.”

“You guys know nothing. Try Sutherland in the Karoo if you want real cold. Colder than a whore’s heart on St Valentine’s day.”

“Think the Swartland is hot, hey? Well try walking around naked at 2 a.m. on Elandsbaai and feel that breeze blow in from the Atlantic. Curdle your knüdel it would.”

I am in no way cerebrally gifted enough to debate the scientific merits of wines whose creators get all flustered and wet with excitement when dishing out the cool climate talk. Yes, my memory has total recall of a damn fine Austrian Grüner Veltliner produced in an area so cold the harvest team had to don balaclavas in September. As far as I can remember, it gets damn near freezing in Epernay, and that Champagne stuff they make there is a bit of alright. And a Lithuanian dry Muscat – I saw the iced-out vines at bud-break – was a killer

Ian Corder

But on the other side of the equation, my palate has also been anointed by superb Chenin Blanc made in Wellington where it hit 50 C-degrees just before harvest began. Robertson can throw a bit of hot air if it wants, yet some of the best Chardonnays in South Africa are made from those chalk-soiled vineyards. And then there is that question of the riveting tropical Sauvignon Blancs made by Du Toitskloof Winery in Rawsonville, an area not exactly known for shivering one’s timbers.

That’s the great thing about wine: despite the hyped-up talk from the marketers as to what is best and why it is best and why it should be best, the vine plant does not give a hoot. It pretty much allows itself to be coaxed in any direction and is more adaptable than a trans-sexual at Sydney Gay Pride. Wines from cool and warm climates are different, yes, but to claim the one is generally better for winemaking than the other would to eschew the tremendous natural flexibility of vitis vinifera and the diversity it brings to the vinous spectrum.

That this diversity is exciting was once again illustrated by a Chardonnay from cool-climate Elgin, the wine made by Corder Family Wines and from the 2012 vintage to be exact. I had spent the week tasting the variety in Robertson, going through various vintages of wines from De Wetshof, Weltevrede and Rietvallei, a real smorgasbord of delights.

Ian Corder from Corder Family Wines popped around with a bottle of his interpretation of Chardonnay, and yes, I would agree that cool-climate brings a distinct aspect to Chardonnay that is just as compelling as the tight lime-stone thread in the Robertson numbers.

Actually, Corder’s is one hell of a good wine.

Chablis it ain’t, but there is whack of peppy vigour and blast of flavour that does indeed make one think of the wines from west Burgundy. On the nose the wine bears riffs of sage, lime-peel and freshly scrubbed abalone shell. The initial attack on the palate is a roar of oceanic arousal followed by marvellously balanced Chardonnay flavours. Being “lightly” oaked, one does find a hit of burnt butter and slight stirring of nuts. These, I suspect, will come to the fore as the wine ages. But now it is a stone-fruit and citrus bomb, all the flavours in synch and enhanced by a statuesque structure and lengthy, streamlined finish.

Drinking this wine is like licking the forbidden bits on one of Michelangelo’s earlier statues made from Carrera marble.

The Corder Family Wines Chardonnay 2012 is a great example of the grape’s ability to express site and terroir and reaffirms the superb quality of South African Chardonnays.

Score: 954/1000.

How cool is that?

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2 thoughts on “Elgin Chardonnay Cool Enough for a King

  1. “… stirring of nuts.” – that’s the biggest reason that I drink wine: its ability to stir my nuts.

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