- On October 16, 2015
Some of you may be thinking “bringing it back?” I never stopped drinking it! However for many of you Chardonnay has become monotonous, uninteresting, and you might be tired of the big, buttery, oaky style that has become synonymous with Chardonnay. It might just be time to start trying a few again. Many U.S. producers have dialed down the oak or no longer use any while French Chardonnay’s such as those from Chablis have held steady with the minerally, high acid, and lively style of wine. Chardonnay is a great white for the fall and impending winter. They are fuller bodied (even without oaky & buttery) and go beautifully with richer and heavier dishes. If you’re bored with the same old labels, try one from another country such as South Africa! Our new favorite love is a beautiful (and inexpensive!) Chard from this country.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet Johan de Wet of De Wetshof winery that makes one of our favorite Chardonnays. They produce mainly Chardonnay a little bit of Pinot Noir (so little that it has not made it’s way to Minnesota). The winery is unique in that it’s focused on these grape varietals unlike many of it’s neighbors who champion Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinotage as the grape varietals of South Africa. Danie de Wet, Johan’s father, studied viticulture from 1969-71 at the famed Geisenheim Wine Institute in Germany and was exposed to the latest technology, science, and a strong tradition of quality wine making. He returnded to South Africa with a purpose to show the world that South Africa can make great wine. In 1972 De Wetshof became the first registered wine estate in the Robertson Valley. He started making wines with varietals such as Riesling and Chenin Blanc. Through his travels in Europe Danie also fell in love with Chardonnay and specifically white Burgundy. Johan told us his father had to smuggle in Chardonnay vines that he got from the famous Drouhin family. The embargo because of the apartheid didn’t allow them to import vines the legal way. In 1981 De Wetshof became the first winery to commercially market Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. De Wetshof has received countless awards for their high quality wines and Danie has made himself an indispensable part of the South African wine community. He has held many positions on the South African Wine & Spirits Board, was the director of Winetech and the first chairman of Vinpro. He has also received recognition for his wine-making in France and was inducted into the Commanderie du Bontemps and the Chevaliers du Tastevin.
What makes their wines, especially the Chardonnays, so great? The Robertson Valley has the highest limestone content in South Africa and has similar soil structure to such famous wine growing regions as Burgundy, Champagne, the Loire Valley and many other regions in France. Limestone creates accessible calcium carbonate in the soil which allows for great water retention and easier uptake of nutrients by the vines. There is also research that shows limestone rich soils allow grapes to retain their acidity longer into the growing season. Acidity is incredibly important as the backbone of wine that makes it fresh and lively. The Limestone Hill Chardonnay displays bright acidity, a round richness coming from ripe fruit heated by the South African sun, and a complex minerality and it is incredibly affordable at $13.99 on sale for $12.59. We will have it open this Saturday for you to try!