Cool-climate, lightly-oaked and fresh, this entry-level offering from Paul Cluver has aromas of Granny Smith apple, lemon zest, flint and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, the acids are zesty and mouthwatering, but there is ample weight and depth to support them. The apple replays, but there are hints of nectarine, apricot and flint. The finish is crisp – a real “crunchy” style of Chard. Pair this with seared scallops or pasta primavera.
Chardonnay is the world’s most famous white-wine grape and also one of the most widely planted, with the most highly-regarded expressions coming from Burgundy and California. Climate plays a major role in dictating which fruit flavours a Chardonnay will have. Broadly speaking, warm regions such as California tend to give more tropical styles. While many Chardonnays have high aromatic complexity, this is usually due to winemaking techniques (particularly the use of oak) rather than the variety’s intrinsic qualities. Malolactic fermentation gives distinctive buttery aromas. Fermentation and/or maturation in oak barrels contributes notes of vanilla, smoke and hints of sweet spices such as clove and cinnamon. Extended lees contact while in barrel imparts biscuity, doughy flavours. In the Elgin Valley, Chardonnay offers typistic cool-climate notes, leaning more towards Chablis than Sonoma or Cote d’Or.
Elgin is the coolest growing region in South Africa, with temperatures rarely rising above 30°C during the growing season. With only 800 ha. under vine, it is also one of the smallest and least planted, as the rocky terrain, cool temperatures and low rainfall make growing grapes a challenging endeavour. Sitting amongst the Hottentot-Holland mountain range, the soils are a mixture of sandstone, decomposed shale, gravel and clay. Due to the precipitous diurnal temperature drops, viticulturists have eschewed the traditional red Bordeaux varieties favoured throughout most of South Africa, planting instead delicate Pinot Noir and altitude-loving Syrah. The most widely-planted white is Sauvignon Blanc, but the future of the region lies in Chardonnay, with world class examples being crafted. Riesling plantings are increasing and showing tremendous promise. Elgin wines tend to be high in acidity, with evolved flavours, as the long hang times allow full phenol development.
The De Rust Estate vineyards of Paul Cluver Family Wines sit on an inland mountain plateau, nestled in the UNESCO Koelberg Biosphere Preserve. Rising between 400-660 masl., they are a mix of the famed Bokkeveld Shale (sandstone rich with invertebrate fossils, clay and loam) and Fericrete gravel (rich in iron oxides). Subject to early morning mists, cool evenings, low rainfall and long sunlight hours, yields are small but high in quality. The vineyards are farmed sustainably, without the use of pesticides and with as little human footprint as possible.
A blend of Chardonnay clones from Estate vineyards, the wines were fermented in a combination of large oak foudres, stainless steel tank and small oak barrels. The barrel-fermented juice used indigenous yeasts, while the other wine utilized selected Burgunduan yeast strains. After spending 7 months on its lees, the separate wines were blended, gently stabilized and bottled.