Chardonnnay Forum Newsletter June 2021

Friday, 18 June, 2021
Chardonnnay Forum
While the usual harvest reports on vintage 2021 have been flying around since March, the Chardonnay Forum recently gathered at Rupert&Rothschild to assess the quality of this year’s young Chardonnay wines.

As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof, so a number of producers brought along barrel-samples for the Forum to taste as well as to engage in some enlightening discussions.

The raw wines tasted were from Jordan, Oldenburg, Rupert&Rothschild and David Finlayson (Stellenbosch); De Wetshof (Robertson); Thelema, Richard Kershaw, Boschendal and Rupert&Rothschild (Elgin); Chamonix (Franschhoek); Hamilton Russell Vineyards (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley) and Restless River and Newton Johnson Vineyards (Upper Hemel-en- Aarde).

There were two overriding factors that could be agreed upon, the first being the general high quality of Chardonnay in the Cape complemented by the diversity of site-expression. The wines showed poise, presence and pure varietal character. Secondly, vintage 2021 is one to watch out for.

All regions experienced a long, cool and slow-ripening season off the back of a wet and cold winter in 2020 as well as a mild spring. Acids remained on the wines, lifting the fruit-score and integrating all components into wonderfully holistic wholes. Chardonnay yields from the Stellenbosch region were down by up to 50%, largely due to pummelling winds during flowering, but as with other areas, the Chardonnays presented at the Forum’s tasting were truly excellent.

Could a Cape style of Chardonnay be evolving? Accurate use and understanding of barrels and the process the wine undergoes during wooding appears to be bearing dividends, as the Chardonnays presented at this tasting are showing gorgeously clean, pristine fruit and focused purity, despite all but one of the samples having been drawn from cask. There is definitely something in the air with South African Chardonnay, and the category is set for great things.

The overall feeling from the producers is that this year the category has exceptional wines of which all Chardonnay producers – as well as South Africa – can be proud and that the launching of these new wines into market is eagerly anticipated.


The Road Ahead for the Forum

During the young wine tasting as well as the following lunch, Chardonnay Forum Chairperson Johann de Wet outlined the goals of the Forum. First and foremost is providing a platform where producers can share information. Technical knowledge appears to be a major need among winemakers and viticulturists, so the Forum will embark on various ventures to create opportunities for the exchanging of information and intelligence. In September this year, for example, the Forum is planning a visit to the new generation Chardonnay plantings under Vinpro’s Gen-Z project. The host will be acclaimed viticulturist Francois Viljoen, and as soon as dates have been established these will be communicated.

Where is this Covid-19 thing going? That is the million-dollar question. Should conditions allow, the Forum plans a Chardonnay Information Day later in the year where speakers on various relevant topics – from sustainability to marketing; viticulture to packaging – will address interested Chardonnay producers. Followed by a tasting of local and international wines.

Planning for this is going ahead, although booking of venues and final arrangements can only be ticked-off once the virus has allowed us to see the road ahead.

With Cape Wine 2022 looking like a reality, the Chardonnay Forum is staying in touch with Wosa to see how we can put our best collective foot forward to the international delegates attending the event. With the local and international critical acclaim Cape Chardonnay is garnering, the excitement it is generating among consumers and the stupendous quality of our wines, Chardonnay has arrived. And is set for lift-off.

Some messages to end-off:

  • Producers wishing to join the Forum can send an e-mail to for It is worth the journey... See our website

  • Also, our website endeavours to publish Chardonnay-related information such as press-releases, awards, vineyard reports, etc. These can also be mailed to, and it would be great to have pictures, too.

We look forward to hearing from you!