Don’t you just love these international wine days? Any excuse to open a good bottle of wine is enough to keep my heart and soul happy. Earlier this month I celebrated International Sauvignon Blanc Day with gorgeous Neil Ellis Wines (if you missed this blog, click here!). Now I’m back with five champion Chardonnays from three stunning wineries for International Chardonnay Day on 24 May 2018!
Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used for white wine. The variety originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France, but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand and right here in South Africa.
The Chardonnay grape itself is very neutral, with many of the flavours that one would usually associate with the grape resulting from the ageing process, with influences such as terroir or oak. Chardonnay is vinified in many different styles; from crispy, mineral wines to oaky wines and fruitier versions. The climate plays a huge role in the flavour profile of Chardonnay; cooler climates produce a more noticeable acidity with hints of apple and pear, where warmer climates result in more tropical fruit flavours.
Setting the scene
I think Chardonnay is a bit of an acquired taste that takes time to develop. Like a good, creamy blue cheese. At first you might think it makes no sense and your taste buds are kicked into overdrive, but as your palate opens to the very complex flavour profile of a respectable Chardonnay, you’ll be left in awe whilst wishing you didn’t miss out on this superb grape varietal all those years.
I’m there. Where I fully appreciate a lovely oaked Chardonnay as well as a young, lively unwooded variety for the complete different taste experiences they offer. Chardonnay is a spectacular food wine and a permanent installment in my personal wine collection.
As always with any press drop, I was childishly excited and thrilled when I received no less than five champion bottles of wine to review for International Chardonnay Day. Before we jump straight into the tasting notes and a bit of background on each wine, this is what I received in my goodie box:
- Groote Post Unwooded Chardonnay 2017
- Groote Post Kapokberg Chardonnay 2017 (Wooded)
- Neil Ellis Whitehall Chardonnay 2016
- Glenelly Glass Collection Chardonnay 2018 (Unwooded)
- Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2016 (Wooded)
Groote Post is a historic 18th century farm on the West Coast where winemaking traditions have been revived by the Pentz family. Unique aspects and cool climatic conditions of the Darling Hills yield excellent fruit.
Groote Post Unwooded Chardonnay 2017
This champion has won many accolades over the years and was most recently awarded four stars in the Platter’s South African Wine Guide.
In the vineyard: The chardonnay grows on the highest hill on the property in the Darling Hills and thus the coolest spot.
In the cellar: The wine spent 3 months on the lees before filtration and bottling.
Tasting notes: Tropical, citrus and guava flavours. Good ageing potential.
The Little Hedonist’s food pairing suggestion: Perfect with light and delicate foods, I would pair this Chardonnay with a fish or chicken terrine. It will also be a dreamy match for a creamy risotto, vegetable soup, grilled fish or shellfish.
Groote Post Kapokberg Chardonnay 2017 (Wooded)
In the vineyard: Chardonnay grapes, with small berries, from high lying vineyards in the Darling Hills are left hanging late into the season to become fully ripe.
In the cellar: The juice was fermented in 300-litre French oak barrels and aged on the lees for 10 months, 25% new oak and 75% older oak.
Tasting notes: An enticing nose of toasted almonds with lashings of butter and zesty lime marmalade on the palate.
Approximate retail price: R160
The Little Hedonist’s food pairing suggestion: I would pair this beauty with a slightly spicy traditional South African chicken curry roti as this young wooded Chardonnay can handle richer foods than its unwooded version. It will also pair well with oily fish dishes, like salmon (remember a squeeze of lemon!) or light cream sauces.
I wrote extensively about the unique wines produced by Neil Ellis Wines in my previous blog (this one!) and once again I would like to present you a truly exceptional wine from their vineyards. This wine recently received a 94-point rating from Tim Atkin in his South African Wine Report.
Neil Ellis Whitehall Chardonnay 2016
In the vineyard: A terrain-specific single vineyard limited release from the Whitehall Farm in the Elgin Valley.
In the cellar: 100% barrel fermented; using 25% new 228 litre fine-grained French oak barrels and the rest in 2nd and 3rd fill oak barrels. The wine spent 9 months in 228 litre French oak barrels.
Tasting notes: Nectarine, lemon barley and white flower aromatics and a gorgeous citrus richness.
Approximate retail price: R250
The Little Hedonist’s food pairing suggestion: Again, a beautiful Chardonnay to pair with fuller dishes, such as fish poached in butter, or chicken salads loaded with juicy stone fruits (think peaches) and cheese.
Glenelly Glass Collection Chardonnay 2018 (Unwooded)
Glenelly Wine Estate is located in the heart of Stellenbosch on the slopes of the Simonsberg and was part of the original Ida’s Valley Farm, granted in 1682 to François Villon by Simon van der Stel. Tucked into a valley surrounded by vineyards and beautiful scenery, it provides visitors the full winelands experience including tasting world-class wines whilst overlooking the best that Stellenbosch has to offer.
In the vineyard: Chardonnay grapes, with small berries in a cooler climate.
In the cellar: This zesty wine has palate weight from spending 8 months on its lees and will age very well.
Tasting notes: Complex aromas of citrus peel, lemon, ripe pear and flint.
Approximate retail price: R95
The Little Hedonist’s food pairing suggestion: Unwooded Chardonnays love fish, cream, potatoes, bacon, shellfish. Buttery avocado. What’s not to like about the versatility of Chardonnay? Think creamy tarragon chicken dishes.
Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2016 (Wooded)
The Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2016 was honoured with a 95-point rating from Tim Atkin.
In the vineyard: Chardonnay grapes, with small berries in a cooler climate
In the cellar: Naturally fermented, spent 11 months on its lees and a total of 11 months in new and 2nd-fill 500-litre casks.
Tasting notes: The nose has tones of quince, citrus peel, lime and butterscotch with hints of pear drop. The palate is lush, with poise and balance.
Approximate retail price: R 230
The Little Hedonist’s food pairing suggestion: This reserve wine requires the caramelised flavours and sweetness of sweet potato, corn or butternut. Gnocchi with sage butter or a pumpkin ravioli. Roast chicken or even pork loin in a creamy sauce.
Because Chardonnay is so incredibly complex, you don’t want to overpower it with heavy foods or powerful flavours. Be gentle with it, treat it delicately and choose your dishes to compliment, not to compete with, the spectrum of enticing flavours captured in each bottle. Subtle, mild and light foods are the best for young Chardonnays, but add a bit of toastiness (grilled or smoked) to wooded/oaked Chardonnays.
These five wines do not need to be dressed up by the food that is served alongside it; in fact, it’s elegantly understated qualities are what make Chardonnay my wine of choice. And I’m spending it in sterling company this year!
Disclaimer: I was given this product(s) as part of a press drop in exchange for my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.