Tasting T3.14 South African Chardonnay Plus

South Africa, as mentioned in T3.15 makes some very fine wines. It is the 8th largest wine producing country in the world. Kim and I have managed to visit a few times even taking Harry once. It is well known now for many single varietal and blended wines. It even has its own sparkling style named ‘Cap Classique’ which refers to the secondary fermentation method as used in Champagne and other sparkling areas.

There is a heavy historical French influence found in many wines and that particularly includes Chardonnay, with many wines displaying greatness.

In South Africa, Chardonnay can produce wines of very high quality and at a very reasonable price point. Chenin Blanc, however, is the most planted variety. The white varietal of Columbard, much like the previously tasted Pinotage, is a varietal that is regarded to offer little but in the hands of a good winemaker can be very surprising.

To that end and to whet our appetite for our 4 wine Chardonnay tasting, we will begin with one Columbard and one Chenin Blanc, both old vine wines.

There are many excellent wine regions in South Africa and much like all wine countries the specific differences of these wine regions/districts lend themselves to styles and grape varieties. In this tasting we are looking at some of the best areas in South Africa for Chardonnay wines.


Stellenbosch is South Africa’s most famous wine area and lies just 30 miles to the east of Cape Town, within the Coastal Wine Region.

It has a hot and dry climate, however a maritime influence comes up from the False Bay area to the south. This brings cooling south easterly breezes that wash through the vineyards in the afternoons and refresh the grapes after the hot sun of the morning. It is in this southerly area of Stellenbosch that the white wine varieties are often planted to take advantage of that proximity to the ocean.


Self-titled the Valley of Dreams, Franschoek is a most beautiful valley and lies within the Coastal Wine Region. It has a significant French Huguenot winegrowing heritage which dates back to 1688.

Only classified as a WO (Wine of Origin) in 2010 it is nonetheless an area that has been making great quality wines for some time. It also has a really wonderful ‘wine tram’ which offers a hop-on hop-off experience of 10 lines each with 8 or 9 wonderful wine estate stops (enough to keep Kim happy for days).


Meaning Heaven and Earth in old Dutch and Afrikaans, this area is located behind the seaside resort town of Hermanus and lies within the Walker Bay District. Further within the Cape South Coast Wine Region.  It is surrounded by nature reserves and overlooks the cool South Atlantic Walker Bay. The appellation is unique with ancient, granite-based, rocky, deep clay soils; extremely rare to the greater Walker Bay area.

It is one of the most exciting wine areas in South Africa and produces cool, restrained, classical (Burgundian) styled Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It is also a very beautiful place.

The wineries are,

Naude wines (Stellenbosch)

Ian Naude makes new world wines in an old world style. Ian travelled the world working in various harvests learning and loving wines that had an identity and sense of place. Returning to Africa he set up Naude wines and started making his own. It is now over 30 years since he first made wine.

Hamilton Russell (Hemel-en-Aarde)

A pioneering 170-hectare Wine Estate in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. At its closest the cold South Atlantic is only 1,500 meters from the Estate. They produce just a single Pinot Noir and a single Chardonnay wine. Their vineyards are planted in 52 hectares of ancient, stony, clay and iron-rich shale-derived soil. Average maximum temperatures for the 4 hottest months equate to Burgundy, as does the clay content of our soils.

Restless River (Hemel-en-Aarde)

Situated in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation, with vineyards at an altitude reaching 1200ft and 5km from the cold South Atlantic ocean.

Daytime temperatures during summer are some of the lowest in the South African winelands. This cool maritime climate and the decomposed granite soils allow them to grow and make lighter, more elegant wine, balanced with texture, length and complexity.

De Morgenzon  (Stellenbosch)

De Morgenzon (the morning sun) covers the top southern and eastern slopes of Ribbokkop. Ever so slightly to the west of Stellenbosch.

De Morgenzon was used as a farm ever since 1679 mainly to assist in stocking up fleets that came to refuel on the Cape of Good Hope. In 2003 Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum bought De Morgenzon and transformed it into a 91 hectare garden vineyard.

Moreson Wine Farm (Franschoek)

Clayton Reabow has been at the helm here since 2006 and was named Diner’s club winemaker of the Year 2019. A pilot. His wines are often maned after call signs or other aviation references.

Tonight’s wines will be tasted by David, Harry, Kim and a very excited Jen!

Naude - Langpad Columbard Old Vines 2021

From vineyards in Vredendal, West Coast. There are no mountains or hills in that area, a salty air blows in from the ocean (roughly 22miles away) during the evening. This creates a fogginess that lingers during the night and when the sun rises the next morning, a kelpy sea spray gets left behind and eventually gets dried by the hot sun on the vines.

Nose: Pale straw colour on first viewing. Apples, pears, grass and green bell peppers. An extremely refreshing aroma surrounds the glass.

Palate: Extremely fresh and racy. White fleshed fruits transferring nicely onto the palate. Grass and bell pepper coming through on this light - medium bodied wine. Good moderate acidity brings a slight tartness towards the end but it is not overpowering. This should give the wine longevity in the short term. A medium length finish rounds out a nice, balanced wine.

Naude - Chenin Blanc Old Vines 2020

From a vineyard in Agter Paardeberg, Western Cape. This vintage is the first to be produced entirely from a single vineyard. The vines were planted in 1971 and were 49 years old at this vintage.

Nose: Yellow colour on first viewing. Sweet fruits, caramel and butter very pronounced. Hints of vanilla and ripe fruit.

Palate: Sweet fruit with marmalade and vanilla all really integrated here. Extremely well balanced with good structure keeping the wine nice and linear. Again slightly tart on the finish but this works extremely well with the marmalade and caramel. Light – medium bodied with high acidity and a full length finish. A very good wine that certainly deserves some plaudits. Possibly not for everybody, a bit like marmite I think!

Hamilton Russell - Chardonnay 2020

One of only two wines that Hamilton Russell produce. 95% of the wine is aged in 228 litre French Oak barrels and 5% is aged in Foudre for 9 months. Yields were very low as they always are, which helps to concentrate on quality.

Nose: Yellow colour on first viewing. Classic Chardonnay aromas of stone fruits, citrus and vanilla.

Palate: Citrus, stone fruits and vanilla merging beautifully together. A luscious full-medium body really brings out the butter and vanilla on the palate. Intense notes of stone fruits with orange blossom and white flowers. High acidity and full length finish. A stunning wine!

Restless River - Ava Maria Chardonnay 2018

Chardonnay vines planted in 1998 which are some of the oldest in the region. Almost all production is done by hand, so as to maintain quality at every point.

Nose: Yellow colour on first viewing. Intense aromas of stone fruits, citrus and butter. Vanilla and very light hints of marmalade.

Palate: Luscious full body making the stone fruits and citrus sing. This has a powerful body that balances out to a gorgeous long finish. Extremely racy with gorgeous fruit, butter and vanilla surrounding the palate beautifully. Grapefruit coming through with the finish and high acidity. A really beautifully made wine.

De Morgenzon - Chardonnay 2018

Grapes are hand-picked and whole bunch pressed. Ageing is done in French oak barrels of which 30% is new. Wine is fermented for 10 months on lees.

Nose: Yellow colour on first viewing. Aromas of caramel & butterscotch, dried stone fruits with citrus. The closest we have come to Burgundian style wines yet.

Palate: Bursting with fruit straight off the bat. A beautifully made wine, elegant and fresh with citrus and caramel creating a beautiful savoury taste. A full engaging body with high acidity and a full length finish. This is beauty in a glass, extremely impressive and half the price of most Burgundian Chardonnay’s at this level. A must buy for your cellar!

Moreson - FYM Chardonnay 2017

Coming from a clone (CY18) of Chardonnay that isn’t found anywhere else in the world. This is a low-yielding clone that was previously thought extinct. The grapes are barrel fermented and aged on its lees in French Oak for 11 months.  

Nose: Yellow colour on first viewing. Butterscotch and depth of fruit. This is outstanding. Aromas are powerful and envelop your senses immediately.

Palate: Beautifully thick and luscious body, a true great. Powerful stone fruits with citrus, butterscotch and vanilla. Orange blossom and hints of marmalade coming through as well. High acidity, this wine will stand the test of time for many years. A full length finish with fruit and butterscotch maintaining strength the entire way. Extraordinary.


These wines are great reflections of the incredible quality of white wines coming out of South Africa today. All of them are of very good quality and you would do well to sample any of them.

They all really typify each region that they come from and are racy, fresh and lively wines. I would certainly suggest either of the last two Chardonnay’s are a must for your cellar. They could easily beat Burgundian wines in a blind tasting. Truly exceptional.

The scores:

Langpad Old Vines Columbard 2021 – 89 Points

Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2020 – 89 Points

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2020 – 93 Points

Ava Maria 2018 – 94 Points

De Morgenzon Chardonnay 2018 – 97 Points

FYM Chardonnay 2017 – 99 Points

As you can see, a fantastic tasting with some excellent wines. I would suggest a good read through again of the tasting notes as they will give you a better idea as to the type of wine you may prefer. Whilst the points rating system is extremely useful, it generally comes down to personal tastes. So do have a good look at the reviews before you go off buying!

Thank you for reading, we’ve got a week off now so we’ll see you in two weeks!

David & Harry

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