Chamonix Estate, the award-winning wine farm in the Franschhoek Valley, this year saw an exceptionally healthy harvest, both in terms of yield and grape quality – a different scenario to 2019 when the ongoing drought resulted in a crop almost half of this year’s volume of 160 tons. Chamonix’s wines are exclusively made from grapes grown on the estate.
Neil Bruwer, who took-over as Chamonix head-winemaker in June last year, says the quality of the 2020 vintage was determined by a stunning variety of diverse climatic conditions during the vineyards’ growing and the grapes’ ripening seasons.
“It began with a cold winter at Chamonix, the low temperatures allowing the vines to get a good winter’s rest,” says Bruwer. “I remember it well – I began working on the farm as head-winemaker in June, and was surprised at how cold it gets here, especially as the estate lies at between 300m and 600m above sea-level.”
From bud-break in spring, all the way to December saw mild, temperate conditions. “We also had good rain at just the right time in end-November through to January, where we recorded 150mm in one week,” says Bruwer. Canopy management and preventative spraying kept away any signs of rot and fungus. And the south-easterly wind, which blew relentlessly during summer also helped to keep the fruit dry.
“Being specialists in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, both early varieties, we had to keep an eye on the health of the grapes, and this was exceptionally good,” he says. “Harvesting began at the end of January, and both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay showed tight, firm bunches with juicy berries. Currently, the wines are in barrel lying on the lees, and from my daily tastings, I am really excited about the quality of wines my first harvest at Chamonix are showing. The Chardonnay is typical Chamonix with dense palate-weight and true varietal character. Some of our Chardonnay blocks are over 30 years old, and this complexity and depth definitely show in the wine.”
Pinot Noir, the other variety Chamonix has gained a formidable reputation for, has this year delivered stunning wines. “The Pinot Noirs have brilliant garnet colour, earthy and floral aromas with superb balance between acid and fruit,” says Bruwer. “With Chamonix’s reputation for Pinot Noir, I admit to having felt a huge sense of responsibility bringing in those grapes and seeing them onto the path of becoming wine. But the grapes are of such exceptional quality, they do the work themselves.”
Bruwer says Chamonix’s other varieties, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage and Cabernet Franc all underscore the premier class of this year’s harvest, during which the average yield was eight tons per hectare. “The farm’s terroir is just incredible: rugged mountain vineyards farmed to classic viticulture practices. I am sure that the class of wines from this year’s vintage will do justice to this amazing piece of earth.”
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