Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Celebration of Chardonnay at DeWetshof, Robertson

A Generous Celebration of Chardonnay

Every two years, De Wetshof in Robertson holds this very prestigious tasting. It is, to quote Danie de Wet: “to pay homage to South African Wine producers whose passion for Chardonnay is displayed in the quality of their wines currently in the market ... we believe that as a wine nation South Africa can now be recognized as a global force in the production of site-specific wines expressing their place of origin to the degree of excellence this variety deserves”. Visiting wine journalist Andrew Jefford was the guest speaker and he made an impassioned plea for growers to look more closely at growing site specific wines. See his speech here
Two marquees were erected, one for the tasting of 3 Method Cap Classique wines and 16 Chardonnays , two each from different region of the Cape winelands selected by a panel lead by David Hughes, British Wine Master Richard Kershaw and winemaker Hannes Storm. The wines were tasted blind. And they were magnificent.
The other was for lunch prepared by Chef Garth Stroebel and his team. They have catered for this even since its inception in 2004. Lunch was five courses and we were served the wines that did not quite make it into the top 16 plus two Chardonnays from France and the Laborie Alambic Brandy. All of them were superb, as was lunch.
What impressed us most was the unstinting generosity of spirit shown by the De Wet family in promoting all South African Chardonnays in this way.
We caught the bus in town at 7 am. A very early start to a long but sensational day. We made a stop at Joostenberg to collect the media who live in the winelands
And our journey was improved by a glass or two of bubbly
On arrival we were served an innovative mini-breakfast-in-a-glass canapé: sausage, tomato and scrambled egg!
Anne Huchon of Morgenhof, WOSA CEO Siobhan Thompson, Arco Laarman of Glen Carlou and Gary Jordan
The Who’s Who of the South African wine industry gather outside De Wetshof
Host Danie de Wet at the badge table
Wine for the tasting chilling on ice. Impressively, It was all served at the perfect temperature, throughout the day
Judge Dave Hughes
The Twelve Apostles Director Horst Frehse and his wife, Barbara
Our brigade of pouring waiters who did their job with aplomb and efficiency
The full tasting marquee as the morning commences
Invited Guest speaker for the day was Andrew Jefford who is a contributing editor for Decanter and the World of Fine Wines. Since becoming a wine writer in 1988, he has written for many British newspapers, including the Evening Standard, The Financial Times, The Guardian and The Times. He writes a weekly blog called Jefford on Monday for www.decanter.com and has also broadcast extensively on wine and other subjects for BBC . Like Lynne, his original background was in book publishing in the UK.
Vines in the glasses
Table setting for the tasting
Listening with rapt attention to Andrew Jefford
The gears between the wheels: De Wetshof Marketing Manager Bennie Stipp and PRO Emile Joubert, who worked tirelessly with others to put this awesome event together
Johann de Wet introduces Dave Hughes
Johann de Wet tells us why the De Wet family hosts this event
Dave Hughes tells us how the judges reached the order of the top 16 wines
Bolla Gerber, Cellarmaster at Groot Constantia, introduces his 2013 Chardonnay, the first we tasted, which had a lovely rich lime marmalade nose and a long lean elegant Constantia citrus palate. Each winemaker presented his wine and gave us information about the site, the soil, the production and the climate
Nice pale colour on the first two chardonnays
Andre van Rensburg of Vergelegen introduces his wine, Chardonnay Reserve 2012, full of peachy smoke, ending with lemon and grapefruit
Jan Boland Coetzee’s Vriesenhof 2012 Chardonnay had whiffs of cooked loquats and apples with a clean lime and lemon minerality with some grains of paradise on the end. Long, long flavours. He told us his plant material was stolen 33 years ago from Beaune in Burgundy in the era when Chardonnay was not allowed to be planted in South Africa!
Newald Marais of Kranskop produced the best value chardonnay in the tasting which retails for R55. This 2012 wine has orange citrus deeply layered flavours with some stony minerality and a lovely spicy naartjie ending
Danie de Wet presented De Wetshof Bateleur 2012. It smells of golden delicious apples and is a huge wine that packs a punch. Citrus, spice and warmth with red apples and mineral lime ending
Johann Fourie of KWV presented the 2012 The Mentors chardonnay. Full of golden grapes, it has a rounded palate which is very satisfying with a dry finish of lemons, limes and Granny Smith apples
Randolph Christians of Rustenberg introduced the 2011 Five Soldiers. Smokey with grace notes of green melon and bacon, it is a lean complex and layered citrus panoply. The wood in in the background supporting the wine, but not interfering. He told us it is grown on the highest vineyards in the Cape
Gerry Wagner of Tokara presented their Reserve Collection Stellenbosch Chardonnay as Miles Mossop is away. It's a fruit forward wine with notes of yellow melon and butter. On the palate, yellow fruit, lemon, peaches, some chalk, with no wood visible and warm alcohol
Gottfried Mocke presented his award winning 2013 Reserve Chardonnay. He said there is “No terroir by truck” at Chamonix and raised a laugh from the audience. Floral and fruit, peaches and apricots on a very aromatic nose. Clean lean and mean crisp limes and green apples on the palate with minerality and elegance. A wine to last? Many of these are
Gary Baumgarten of Anthonij Rupert Wines presented the 2012 Cape of Good Hope Serruria Chardonnay. Brioche and butter with a whiff of smoke on nose. Lime juice, some sweetness and a little chalk, it has nice elegance and is a balanced food wine. It comes from a clone CY559 no one else has planted. And is from a very cool vineyard in Franschhoek, never warmer than 30°C and has had snow in the vineyard these last two winters
David Brice of The Wine Cellar asks a question
Carl Schultz of Hartenberg presenting The Eleanor 2013. This was one of our favourite wines of the day, but only by a small margin as the quality of the wines was extremely high overall, including the wines we had with lunch. It is bready with golden fruit on the nose, shy with some slight smoke. On the mouth vanilla wood and toast with crisp limes. Very complex and layered with chalky minerality and a lot of character and attitude. Food wine deluxe
Gary Jordan with 2013 Nine Yards which is full of apples and spice and warm linen on the rose, full of apples and white peaches with a lime finish, and terroir minerality. They have white quartz in the vineyards. Another wine to keep and mature
Kevin Grant presented our highest scoring wine of the day, his 2013 Ataraxia. Smells of spicy apples and pears and tastes of crisp limes lemons and chalky minerality. So French, so elegant. He grows on 7 different soils. He didn’t pull up his vines and grow vegetables, thankfully. He stuck to making good wine
Hannes Storm, who is moving from Hamilton Russell to make his own Storm wines
Bernhard and Fida Hess of Mimosa Lodge in Montagu
Taking a selfie is Ultra director Mark Norrish with Kevin Grant
Assembling for lunch
Johan Malan of Simonsig chatting to Carl Schultz of Hartenberg
Johann de Wet telling us about the wines we will be served with lunch. All the wine was served at 17°C, it was 20.5°C in the tent, thankfully on a very temperate cloudy day.
Richard Rowe of KWV with Johann Fourie
The lunch menu
The starter was a pillow of oak smoked river salmon trout filled with avocado and fromage blanc topped with a very fine red caviar and micro green salad. We could have Moreson, La Motte or Puligny Montrachet Chateau de Puligny Montrachet. The Puligny sadly run out as everyone wanted to taste it, but Peter de Wet generously went to get some more, so we did taste some. A very different style indeed from SA ‘s big Chardonnays, mostly.

Lunch underway
A few speeches
And the award of the Golden Vine went to Luke Dale Roberts of the Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club. It was presented by Lesca de Wet and Johann de Wet. It is awarded to a chef for his contribution to the food and wine culture
Luke accepting the award
Every farm involved has produced a sample of their soil
Jeanette Bruwer of Springfield
Lourens Jonker of Weltevrede
Johann Fourie, Michael Olivier and Morné Vrey, chatting
Mr & Mrs Carel Nel of Boplaas
Carel congratulating Luke Dale Roberts
The main course was half a small crayfish with black mussels serve with cured sweet beets, chardonnay jelly, sea grass and the first samphire we have had in South Africa. The crayfish was not familiar and we wondered where it came from. It had rather a tough red skin which peeled off but was inedible.
The two French wines available for tasting with lunch
Kevin Grant enjoying the day
Time to get back on the bus! Bennie Stipp making sure we have lots of supplies for the trip home. Some madman trying to get some NOW. Some of us had to leave without having had the cheese or dessert courses as other members of the media wanted to get back to town early. A pity. It was a very, very good event, one of the best this year
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2014

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