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Words: Ndumiso Mngadi


Crystallum, Clay Shales Chardonnay 2014, 1ST PLACE – Walker Bay, South Africa.

Meet Peter Allan Finlayson as big as his father in stature and certainly making as big a name for himself as a winemaker up and down the Cape’s varied terroirs.

Like a lot of his colleagues he is easing back on the oak, especially since 2011 to bring more terroir focus, fruit and minerality into his wines. And this is a case in point. Clay Shales is a single-vineyard just outside Hemel en Aarde with a high clay content and is the only single vineyard in the growing Crystallum portfolio.

Remarkably, the vines are just 12 years old and already producing incredible fruit complexity. This is dry, elegant, nuanced, fresh and minerally with terrific expression of white peach, melon and cashew nut fleshed out with a savoury umami quality. The wine goes through full malolactic fermentation and then sees just 15% new oak with a mix of second and third fill barrels. It also has an extraordinary zip with a pH of 3.21.

  • Alc 13.3%



Jordan, Nine Yards Chardonnay, 2nd place – Stellenbosch, South Africa 2010

Another blue-chip Chardonnay which is a complete contrast to the Bateleur. This single vineyard, full throttle expression of Jordan terroir takes no prisoners. Winemaker, Sjaak Nelson, ferments the juice in barriques (virtually entirely new French oak) and then ages it sur lie for a further 12 months in oak during which he rolls the barrels to accentuate the leesy character.

This is the white wine for red wine drinkers. Expansive, big, spicy, voluptuous, with butterscotch, cloves, pear and minerals. Rich exotic and memorably long.

  • Alc: 13.5%
  • 100% chardonnay



Jackson Family Estate, Capensis 2013, 3RD PLACE

Stellenbosch, South Africa

This is Jackson Family Estate‘s first foray into South Africa – and what a debut by winemaker Graham Weerts and vineyard manager Rosa Kruger who sourced the fruit from exceptional sites in Stellenbosch, Overberg and Robertson.

The wine carries the 55% new French oak with ease to reveal a profoundly complex Chardonnay with heft, depth and well-judged acidity. Stone fruits, pear, herbs, lees and hay notes and long saline finish, make this a very complete and complex effort. A star in the making.

  • 13.6 alc
  • 100% chardonnay



Groot Constantia, Chardonnay 2013 4TH PLACE ,

Constantia, South Africa

A cracking Chardonnay from the Cape’s oldest wine farm. Grown on sandstone and decomposed granite this has a hint of aromatic perfume alongside the wine’s structure. The result is a richly textured wine with minerals, honeysuckle, white peach, cream and butter. Winemaker Boela Gerber delayed picking some plots to increase the intensity. And it shows in this complex, compelling effort.

  • Alc 13.6%



Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Chardonnay 2014, 5th place

Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa

Arguably the most faithfully Burgundian-styled Chardonnay I have tasted thus far. Yet it speaks as much of Hemel en Aarde’s cool climate as it does of Beaune.

Exquisitely crafted by winemaker Emul Ross, this tinglingly fresh and elegant Chardonnay also won a DWWA Gold this year. Lovely mouthfeel, linear, with melon, hazelnut, struck match. A wine that is utterly compelling and a joy to drink.

  • 13.5 Alc
  • 100% chardonnay



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