Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2013

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Heaven on Earth. South Africa’s fairy-tale beauty with a view of Antarctica make the Hemel-en-Arde Valley among the world’s most awe-inspiring wine regions. Now home to some of the country’s top wineries, at the time of Hamilton Russell’s first plantings in 1976 the valley was desolate.

As a former ad executive, Hamilton Russell purchase 400 acres of land here and started growing all the noble varieties. The winery eventually settled on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and it is for these two wines that it gained international recognition. In my view, they are some of the most compelling wines from South Africa.

Soil, Climate, Philosophy

An unusual region for its relatively high rainfall and deceptively warm climate (cool by South African standards, but not by international ones). The soils are clay-rich Bokkeveld shales, which are low vigour soils that Hamilton Russell believes is the key to the quality of their wines.

The wines are certainly good though the philosophy somewhat unorthodoxed given that current owner Anthony Russell believes (as quoted by Jamie Goode) that Pinot Noir is an “uncomplex variety” that only becomes great when planted in the right places where it can “transcend” its variety. I cannot agree that this makes any sense, since the genetic complexity of Pinot Noir is one of the reasons it has so much potential for transparency and profundity when combined with the correct microclimate, soils and microbiological ecosystem. Clonal selection is one of the most important factors in making great Pinot Noirs, which belies the statement it is an “uncomplex variety”. That said, perhaps I am misunderstanding the intention behind that comment.

A Distinctive Chardonnay

Whatever you may think of the above statement, there is definitely something exciting going on with Hamilton Russell’s wines and they are clearly dedicated to carefully improving quality. They are constantly experimenting with fermentation vessels and took many years of trial and error before finding the ideal siting for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards.

This 2013 Chardonnay combines a bright, highly expressive core character of minerals, citrus and orchard fruit with honeycomb succulence in a manner distinct unto itself – almost as though Chablis met the Sonoma Coast.

The wines are made with organically farmed grape and sees indigenous ferments before ageing in barrique. The final bottled Chardonnay is a blend of various vineyard lots that are fermented separately.

I highly recommend Chardonnay lovers try this wine – it is delicious, very fairly priced, and there is nothing quite like it on the market.

$45 + tax list (several dollars more at private stores such as Kits Wine)


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