South Africa’s pioneering Chardonnay-focused wine estate, De Wetshof in Robertson, is the only Cape wine on this year’s coveted list of Top 100 wines, as selected by the American magazine Wine Spectator, the world’s most influential wine publication. The De Wetshof Bon Vallon Chardonnay 2020, one of the estate’s five site-specific Chardonnays, came in at number 92 in the Top 100, which is selected by Wine Spectator editors from the thousands of wines from around the world scrutinised throughout the year.
Bon Vallon is one of De Wetshof’s two unwooded Chardonnays and is no stranger to accolades having won numerous awards at South African wine competitions. But, according to Johann de Wet, CEO of De Wetshof, this year’s Wine Spectator Top 100 spot is a highlight in the Bon Vallon Chardonnay’s performance on the international stage.
“I must admit, this announcement came as a great surprise, not only to be the only South African wine to make this coveted annual Wine Spectator Top 100, but also to do so with an unwooded wine,” says De Wet. “If one thus sees an unoaked wine on a list like this, you expect it to be a wine from Chablis, pretty much Ground Zero for unwooded Chardonnay. But then again, the De Wetshof Bon Vallon has gained a reputation for being an unoaked wine yet exuding classical depth, complexity and breadth that grabs the imagination of the wine consumer and critic for it pure expression of Chardonnay characteristic. We are simply incredibly honoured to see this wine take a place in this Top 100 which reads like a veritable list of Who’s Who in the global wine space.”
De Wet says the limestone-rich soils of Robertson have a major role to play in the region’s ability to deliver outstanding Chardonnays, including the unwooded category. “Limestone soils give Chardonnay perfect pH levels that drive the unique character of great unwooded Chardonnay.
“Like all our Chardonnays, the grapes for the Bon Vallon originate from vineyards growing on sites specifically suited to the style of wine that is going to be bottled,” says De Wet. “These are vineyards on limestone-rich soils, with a high clay component ensuring coolness and a high water-retention capacity.
“The resulting wines are fresh and accessible, with enough complexity in structure and mouthfeel to ensure a presence on the palate,” he says. “Its popular appeal is due to its ability to accompany almost any type of food, as well as to offer wine lovers the great enjoyment of an unwooded Chardonnay.”
De Wet says that one of the most important aspects of the Wine Spectator Top 100 accolade is that it shows recognition for the state of Chardonnay in South Africa. “The quality of Cape Chardonnay is growing at a rate of knots, and the international wine world is taking notice of this,” he says. “In the American market, where Chardonnay rules the roost as far as white wines are concerned, recognition such as that from the Wine Spectator can have a huge impact on the perception of South African Chardonnay, and the international image and reputation of the Cape wine industry as a whole.”