There is no excuse not to open a bottle of your favourite Chardonnay today. So let us all raise our glasses to International Chardonnay day!
Chardonnay’s popularity makes it one of the most planted white varieties in the world – about 160 000 ha. It is also planted in more wine grape areas than any other grape variety.
Together with Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay is one of the three most planted varieties in Franschhoek, and together with Semillon, it is regarded as the future of wine production in the Valley.
The Franschhoek Wine Valley is renowned for producing excellent Chardonnay, and one of the reasons for this (and possibly the single biggest differentiator) is the high diurnal temperature variation in the vineyards. The difference between the region’s day and night temperatures during the growing season fluctuate between 13 – 15˚C, and this large fluctuation allows for natural acid preservation in the berries at night (malic acid) and optimal sugar accumulation during the day without prolonged metabolic activity. This gives the area a wider spectrum and diversity of styles to play with when it comes to Chardonnay production, and in doing so creating optimal growing conditions for this popular grape variety. Although understanding all the variables can be a challenge, it is difficult to deny that Franschhoek Chardonnay has that special X-factor. The recognisable lime, citrus and cashew nut on the nose, a creamy texture with minerality on the palate and a lingering follow through. And as a tribute to the French Huguenot heritage of our area, Franschhoek Chardonnay often offers that oatmeal character some of the best French examples are known for.
So now that you have opened that special bottle of Franschhoek Chardonnay, what exactly is the best way to serve and drink this wine? Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche from La Motte offers this great advice:
“Chardonnay, like all wines, should be served in the correct glass and correct temperature. The classic Chardonnay glass has a big rounded bowl and a wide rim. This will decant the wine in the correct places on your palate. The temperature should be around 10 degrees celcius for wooded wines and maybe a little cooler for unwooded wines.” Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche
We have also asked Edmund to tell us a little more about the Chardonnay that they produce at La Motte:
“La Motte’s Chardonnay, like many other in Franschhoek is slightly wooded, with a creamy texture and juicy lemon citrus, nuts and out meal flavors. We pick it in different stages, ferment partly in different oak barrels and age it for 12 months to get a well balanced and integrated, complex wine. We aim towards a light to medium bodied wine to maintain finesse and freshness.” Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche.
And if we look a little bit further than Franschhoek to our French counterparts, it seems like the Domaine Coche-Dury from Meursault, France has impressed GlenWood winemaker, DP Burger, the most! When we asked him what makes this specific bottle of wine so mindblowing and one of his favourites, he explained the following:
“I encountered this wine during my travels in Europe and it was truly a memorable experience when I tasted it for the first time! Beautifully integrated with an excellent strong yet subtle minerality. The 2008 vintage stands out in my mind and even this wine still had many years to reach full potential.” DP Burger (GlenWood).
So back to Franschhoek, we all know that this area is pretty serious about their food! As the gourmet capital of South Africa it is no doubt that you will find some of the best food and wine pairings around. So what is the best food to enjoy with a Chardonnay?
Edmund Terblanche, Cellarmaster at La Motte said the following:
“Chardonnay is very versatile with food but preferably those that contain cream, butter, cheese or something lightly smoked. Pastries and creamy fatty cheeses does well and any vegetarian dish which is not too acidic.”
Try your hand at this delicious recipe created by La Motte for chicken with sorrel and lemon. Not only is it perfect for winter, but it is more than 300 years old! It comes from a cookbook titled De Verstandige Kock (ca. 1668) and has basically stayed unchanged.
Billet Magara, sommelier and tasting room manager at Paserene in Franschhoek, recommends that Chardonnay works particularly well with seafood dishes with a creamy sauce. In addition, creamy dishes with an Asian twist are also a great option. Billet’s favourite dish to enjoy with a glass of Chardonnay is butter chicken, but for the perfect pairing he recommends the Paserene Chardonnay with poached crayfish in tangy mayonnaise.
Though it is nearly impossible to single out only a few Chardonnays from our Franschhoek producers because they are all so good, we have below highlighted some of our favourites that we know you will enjoy too!
The Moreson Mercator Chardonnay 2017
In 2018, Môreson’s Clayton Reabow was announced as the 2018 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year in the Chardonnay category for his Môreson Mercator Chardonnay 2017. Clayton is no stranger to this competition, winning the Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year Award in 2009. Clayton regards the Mercator as their benchmark white wine forming the pinnacle of Chardonnay production on Môreson Wines. With over 20 hectares of small vineyard parcels planted exclusively to Chardonnay, the Mercator has been grown and produced from two mature vineyards for the last 11 years. Only the cuvee juice is used in the production of this wine ensuring absolute pure fruit with delicate oak integration after being matured in French oak for 11 months. Like all great Chardonnay’s, the purpose is to produce a wine with focus, energy, precision and restraint.
Glenwood Chardonnay Grand Duc
Regarded as their flagship wine, GlenWood’s Grand Duc Chardonnay has raked in an impressive number of awards. Amongst other it has received the Decanter Trophy for the best South African Chardonnay, the Old Mutual Wine Trophy Gold and Second Best Chardonnay in SA, Veritas Gold and Double Gold, Mundis Vini International Gold, Winemakers Choice Best White and Top 3 Chardonnays, numerous Veritas Double Gold awards and was listed on the 2017 Sommeliers Selection Wine List. Winemaker, DP Burger, who has been at the helm of this boutique wine estate for 25 years, describes the wine as showing outstanding oak and fruit integration. On the palate the wine displays a full, rich, creamy mouth feel of almonds and vanilla, resulting in a lingering aftertaste of smoky peach and citrus. The GlenWood currently produces three styles of Chardonnay, Grand Duc, Vignerons Selection and an Unoaked Chardonnay. The grapes sourced for their wines are all vinified on GlenWood, thereby reflecting the unique terroir of the Franschhoek Wine Valley. The 2016 Grand Duc Chardonnay is available at R3300 per case of 6.
La Bri Chardonnay 2017
Irene de Fleuriot, General Manager and Winemaker of La Bri and her team, produce a range of the most sublime wines, one of which is the La Bri Chardonnay 2017. The wine outdid itself in the Prescient Chardonnay 2018 Report in October by being scored 94 out of a hundred. The grapes for the La Bri Chardonnay 2017 come from a single 26-year Chardonnay block on the Estate.
Haut Espoir 2018 Chardonnay
In celebration of International Chardonnay Day on the 23rd Haut Espoir’s 2018 Chardonnay will be released and available to order. This 2018 Chardonnay was produced from a single vineyard, sourced from neighbouring farms in the Franschhoek valley. Typical flavours of citrus and lime are accompanied by a rich textured mouthfeel, due to the barrel ageing. The fresh acidity lingers on the aftertaste and makes this a well-balanced and rounded wine.
Colmant Brut Chardonnay NV
This Colmant Blanc de Blanc blend, created from a special selection of Chardonnay, is the epitome of Chardonnay expression – fine, elegant and fresh. Colmant came out tops at the 2018 Amorim Cap Classique Challenge, with their Brut Chardonnay NV being named the Best Blanc de Blancs at this prestigious industry event. The Amorim Cap Classique Challenge is the only competition that focuses exclusively on Cap Classique.
Babylonstoren Chardonnay 2018
The 2018 Babylonstoren Chardonnay is an old world style Chardonnay with a fresh, fine-grained nose of quince, lime and vanilla. It was recently included in the National Wine Challenge’s Top 100 SA Wines and received a Double Platinum award.
Holden Manz Chardonnay 2018
The 2018 Chardonnay grapes are specially sourced and hand selected by Holden Manz’s Cellar Master from a ridge overlooking the ocean in Somerset West and a high-altitude slope on the side of the Simonsberg Mountain. These two locations are both relatively cool but for different physical influences. They combine magnificently to produce a rounded
well-balanced wine. Grapes were harvested in two separate pickings from Somerset West adding to the complexity. Six month’s lees contact adds a creaminess and complexity, presenting an appealing full mouth and length.
Boschendal Appellation Series Elgin Chardonnay 2016
On the international front Boschendal was awarded Gold as well as the Trophy for Best South African Chardonnay at the 2018 International Wine Challenge for its Appellation Series Elgin Chardonnay 2016.
Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016
During the 2019 Platter’s Awards, Mullineux Wines not only received the award for Straw Wine of the Year for its Straw Wine 2017, but also walked away with the title of Chardonnay of the Year for its Leeu Passant Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016.
With thanks to Edmund Terblanche (La Motte Wine Estate), DP Burger (GlenWood) and Billet Magara (Paserene Wines) for their inputs provided in this article.