Welcoming the guests, sponsor Sanlam Private Investments CEO Daniël Kriel said that he values the ‘decent price’ of South African wine and food each time he returns from an overseas trip. He added that his company is passionate about wine and art investment. Having researched the topic on Wikipedia, Kriel said that Chardonnay is the most grown grape variety in the world. He also said that South Africa’s first Chardonnay vines had to be smuggled into the country. He thanked the producers who had offered their wines for evaluation, and for their passion for South African wines.
Wine writer and judge Christian Eedes said that Chardonnay is a ‘wine with a universal following – arguably the best dry white wine in the world’. Christian and his judging panel of Roland Peens of Wine Cellar and James Pietersen, Beverage Manager of Balducci’s and Belthazar, tasted 60 Chardonnays that have performed well at recent competitions. Each wine was evaluated and scored out of 20 points/5 stars. PKF were the tasting auditors.
Characterising top Chardonnay crafting, Christian said: ‘Chardonnay happily responds to a wide range of production techniques (including fermentation and maturation in barrel, malolactic fermentation and stirring of the lees) and these tend to impose themselves on the end-result in significant ways. It might be said, however, that what seems to separate the excellent from the merely good is a purity of fruit, which shines through regardless of how elaborate the winemaker has been’.
Christian and his panel found a wide divergence in Chardonnay styles in the judging this year: ‘There seems to be a growing realisation that to compete at the top end of the market, playing it safe is not going to cut it. Consequently, there are some really innovative, even wacky, wines out there’. A past emphasis on ‘clean and crisp’ Chardonnay has seen a shift back to ‘more mouth-filling, broad-flavoured wines‘. The panel found three broad styles of Chardonnay:
* pretty floral aromatics
* spontaneous ferment and/or oxidative winemaking
* rich and ripe heavily wooded
He described the two top 5-star Chardonnays as follows:
History was made in that the Hamilton Russell Chardonnay has been on the Christian Eedes Top 10 Chardonnay list for three years running, made by winemaker Hannes Storm. A number of the Top 10 Chardonnay winemakers could not receive their certificates personally, as they were at Winex in Johannesburg.
The 2013 Christian Eedes Top 10 Chardonnays, available as a pack of ten at Wade Bales, were announced as:
* Groot Constantia 2012
* Paul Cluver 2012
Four and a half stars
* Hamilton Russell Vineyards 2012
* Haskell Anvil 2012
* Tokara Reserve Collection Stellenbosch 2012
* KWV The Mentors 2012
* Boschendal Reserve Collection 2012
* Crystallum The Agnes 2012
* Fleur du Cap Unfiltered 2012
* Rustenberg Five Soldiers 2011
The canapés served by Burrata Chef Annemarie Steenkamp were delectable, and included pea and asparagus soup, prawn lollipops, salmon blinis, chicken mayonnaise on brioche, chicken croquettes, and risotto balls.
Christian concluded his evaluation of the country’s top Chardonnays as follows: ‘South Africa’s premium Chardonnays are a compelling proposition and moreover offer great quality relative to price. The top 10, ranging from R95 a bottle for the Fleur du Cap Unfiltered 2012 to R300 a bottle for the Rustenberg Five Soldiers 2011, will hold their own in just about any company. Burgundy remains the benchmark but then you can easily find yourself paying R700 a bottle for Premier Cru and far north for Grand Cru‘.
Disclosure: We received a bottle of KWV The Mentors 2012 with our media pack.
Christian Eedes Chardonnay Report 2013. www.whatidranklastnight.co.za Twitter @ChristianEedes
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage