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The ABC of Wine - Part 1

Chardonnay – The Winemaker’s dream grape

In Part 1 of the ABC of Wine Series, Cape Wine Master Marilyn Cooper discusses the versatility of the Chardonnay grape, which was smuggled into South Africa inside someone’s sock 30 years ago!

 
It seems as though Chardonnay has been around in South Africa forever, but in fact was only smuggled into the country in someone’s sock only 30 years ago.

Compare this to Sѐmillon and Chenin blanc that have been in the country for 300 years!

Since then winemakers have discovered that you can make a wide variety of styles – from the heavily oaked, unwooded, barrel fermented, lees contact, lightly wooded, blended, even botrytised to sparkling wines.

Many estates make a whole range of Chardonnay - Hartenberg (3), Jordan (4), De Wetshof (7), Nederburg (3) - while this versatile variety has inspired wonderful names like The Eleanor, Nine Yards, Finesse, Bateleur and even Fat Bastard (definitely not for wedding anniversaries or Valentine's Day celebrations).

Every restaurant has a minimum of four on their wine list.

Depending on the body (weight) of the wine, and its sweetness, Chardonnay matches a wide variety of different cuisines.

Any dish that contains cheese, a high butter content (garlic snails), poultry or light meat (veal), will be enhanced by a full bodied Chardonnay (Fleur du Cap or Hamilton Russel).
 
Chardonnay
Photo credit: iwine.co

The unoaked light bodied styles (De Wetshof Bon Vallon or Van Loveren) are perfect with chicken salad, salmon mousse, creamy dishes or simply quaffing around the braai.

I recently attended a tasting of Chardonnay from various countries around the world, and was most impressed with the Chilean Frontera, an entry level, reasonably priced wine that is widely available at most supermarkets and retailers.

At the other end of the market, compare this to any French Burgundy, at treble the price, which certainly shows their expression of terroir; a floral, mineral aroma and flavours, with very little new wood being used in their production though they can be cellared for many years.

Chardonnay  

If you prefer a French unwooded style, try Chablis.

Our wonderful South African wooded examples, eg Meerlust, la Motte and Glen Carlou , are the epitome of serious, well-made wines, winning many international competitions and regularly awarded five stars in our local wine guide.

Cap Classique Blanc de Blanc (Chardonnay only) rival their counterparts in Champagne, with our style being more full bodied, full of ripe fruit flavours – wonderful with chocolate over Easter try J C le Roux Scintilla.

So whether you are looking for an every day quaffer (range R30 – 50), something for dinner (R60-90) or enjoy a serious wine, made to impress and savour (R100 – R400), there is a Chardonnay for you.

 
 
 
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