De Wetshof Estate plays host to World-Class Chardonnay Event

Monday, 12 November, 2012
De Wetshof
The dynamic diversity of the Chardonnay grape was accentuated during the Celebration of Chardonnay held at De Wetshof on Friday 9 November.
With the list of 15 presentation wines originating from Australia’s Margaret River to local Robertson, from Burgundy to Stellenbosch, the general consensus was that Chardonnay’s appeal lies in reflecting terroir – especially the soil aspect – whilst remaining true to certain flavour and structural traits that have made this the world’s most noble of all white varieties.

Since the inception of the Celebration of Chardonnay in 2006, this bi-annual event has aimed to set-aside one day in which to honour Chardonnay on De Wetshof Estate in Robertson, the farm where proprietor Danie de Wet played a profound role in establishing Chardonnay in South Africa during the 1980’s. As per usual the selection of the 10 Chardonnays was left up to international wine judge Dave Hughes and his panel of journalists, sommeliers, Masters of Wine and Cape Wine Masters.

The local wines put forward for the presentation were:
•    Jordan 9 Yards 2011
•    Hartenberg Eleanor 2009
•    De Wetshof The Site 2009
•    Hamilton Russell 2011
•    Paul Cluver 2011
•    Ataraxia Chardonnay 2010
•    Glen Carlou Quartz Stone Chardonnay 2010
•    Uva Mira Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2010
•    De Wetshof Bateleur 2009
•    Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Chardonnay 2011
•    Springfield Estate MéthodeAncienne Chardonnay 2009
Due to a tie between two wines, both tied wines were put into the final tally.

To compare the South African wines with some of the great Chardonnays from the world, Jan Boland Coetzee from Vriesenhof who has an extensive knowledge of international Chardonnays, chose four wines from three continents:
•    Domaine de Montille Puligny Montrachet Les Cailleret 2007 (Burgundy)
•    Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches 2009 (Burgundy)
•    Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay 2010 (Margaret River, Australia)
•    Hanzell Chardonnay 2009 (Sonoma, USA)

To assist the 140 guests in working through the five flights of three wines each, a panel of experts comprising Tsogo Sun head sommelier Miguel Chan, Jan Boland Coetzee and revered American viticulturalist Phil Freese were on hand to answer questions as well as to give further insights into Chardonnay – from viticultural and wine-making right down to consumer preference in the world market.

Although the Celebration is not a competition but rather about looking for the features and unique characters of each wine, there were wines which created a stir. With its racy acidity, the Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay brought a remarkable degree of vibrant freshness to the line-up. Domaine de Montille Les Cailleret’s superbly played the role of a reference point for a great wine from Chardonnay’s ancestral home.

And observing the similarity between the De Wetshof Bateleur and the Joseph Drouhin Clos des Mouches was an extremely interesting feature of the tasting. The Bateleur is made from the same plant material found in the Clos des Mouches, and although both wines are separated by the equator, their flavour-profiles had some striking common ground.

In terms of a general observation, the assembled audience were unanimous in praising the work of South African winemakers in producing world-class Chardonnays. With the variety only having been around in South Africa for a tad over 30 years, the winemakers have managed to bring terrain and site expression into wines which are well-made, age-worthy and exude the degree of excellence demanded by those who love this wine made from the King of all White Grapes.