February is the hottest month of the year in South Africa, so normally I would reach for a Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin, or even a crisp Rosé. This month, however, I was introduced to a selection of beautiful wooded Chardonnays, so I am dedicating the post to this indulgent style of white wine.
I know that a few wine snobs might scoff and mutter something about ABC (anything but Chardonnay), but personally I love this cultivar, with those floral and caramel notes on the nose and soft fruit on the palette. It also pairs easily with so many styles of food, from curries to seafood and fresh salads.
Here are some of the top Chardonnays I tasted this month.
According to Eikendal cellarmaster Nico Grobler, this is the best Chardonnay he has made, which is saying something since previous vintages have raked in some prestigious accolades.
The vines that produced the Eikendal Chardonnay 2015 came from four different clones, each grown in the specific way to cultivate its best in the fruit. We got to sample each of the clones at a recent event and you could really taste how they contributed something unique to the final product – one bringing more acidity, the other more body, the other fruit etc.
The bunches of grapes were pressed whole and all the fermentation started in tank before the juice was moved to barrel. All the batches underwent wild fermentation, and then aged in custom-made Burgundian oak barrels, with 20% in new oak and the remainder in second, third and fourth fill barrels.
The wine has a beautiful fruity floral nose with honeysuckle and orange zest. As for the palette, you have hints of apple, peach, pineapple and honey, with good balance of acidity on the palette and a long linger at the end.
Try it with grilled salmon or a curry.
La Petite Ferme Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2016
R200, La Petite Ferme in Franschoek
It is totally worth driving all the way to Franschhoek to buy this wine. For one, La Petite Ferme boasts some of the most incredible views you’ll find in this world, and their boutique winery does a fine job to satisfy the palette.
This Chardonnay invites you in with an aroma of burnt butter and toasted almonds. Then on the first sip you are greeted by zesty notes of pineappe and green apple that help to balance out the smooth, creamy flavours. I was perfectly happy to have another, and another, and yet another sip.
The wine has been made using grapes from Elim near Agulhas, bringing a fresh minerality that balances the typical stone fruit flavours you get from Franschhoek grapes. They add freshness and also give a nice long finish after each sip.
Try it with wild mushrooms, roasted beetroot, fennel or smoked trout.
Hartenberg The Eleanor 2015
This wine forms part of the Super Premium range at Hartenberg and has always been one of my favourites. The 2015 vintage is no exception. You get those lovely nutty and vanilla aromas on the nose, which carry through on the palette, complemented by a smooth, creamy mouth-feel. Then there is also a nice acidity on the finish that helps to balance out the wine and lures you to take another sip.
Try the wine with seafood like oysters, linefish, cheeses or risotto.
Survivor Wild Yeast Chardonnay 2016
I tasted Survivor wines for the first time this month and I’m thoroughly charmed by their brand. This was one of my favourites from the tasting. It has this really interesting and beautiful floral nose with a hint of lime, that carries you into a lovely, soft fruity palette.
The grapes come from a low-yielding, dryland block in the Swartland region, which means higher concentration of flavours. 100% of the Chardonnay was barrel fermented in first fill French oak, and left to mature for 11 months. They also allowed the juice to ferment naturally with wild yeast, which adds a unique flavour to the wine.
I picked up soft stone fruit and pear on the palette. Try it with pork, butternut or crayfish.
Lanzerac Chardonnay 2015
This wine delivers all those classic Chardonnay flavours, without becoming too sweet and heavy.
80% of the Chardonnay went into Burgandy-style oak barrels – a combination of first, second, third and fourth fill to balance the flavour from the wood and preserve the wine in the best way. The remaining 20% was fermented in stainless steel tanks.
The aroma is packed with fruit, ginger biscuits, cooked apples, caramel and cream. Then on the palette you get a soft, buttery flavour and decadent notes of mangoes, pineapples and a hint of banana. Try it with Korma, Biryani or Cape Malay Chicken Curry.
Which wines did you enjoy this month? Pop your recommendations in the comments section below, I would love to hear from you.