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South African Chardonnay: nine award winners

Nine wines, one theme -- they've all won an award of one sort or another. I'm quite a fan of South African Chardonnays in general. They tend to combine new world depth of flavour with some old world elegance and restraint. These particular wines were tasted at a Wines of South Africa event, and while it was a solid line-up, it would be unfair to suggest that they represent the best examples of this genre. Notable absentees, which I would expect to do a little better than most of these here, include Thelema, Hamilton Russell, Rustenberg, Warwick Estate....the list goes on.  

Rock Ridge Chardonnay 2001, Stellenbosch
Thereís a modern, crisp, lemony character to this wine, together with a boiled sweets edge. Modern commercial style. Very good (Marks & Spencer £4.99) 

Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay 2000, Paarl
Lovely, classy nose displays brilliantly integrated lemony fruit and nutty oak, with a complex smoky edge. The palate is fresh and bright with focused, creamy fruit and some complexity. Very good/excellent (£7.99 Unwins, Morrisons) 

Fairview Akkerbos Chardonnay 2000, Paarl
Slightly shy creamy, nutty nose. The palate shows restrained nutty fruit with good acidity. Classy and well balanced. Very good+ (£8.99 Oddbins, Great Western Wines) 

Paul Cluver Chardonnay 2000, Elgin (Walker Bay), South Africa
Savoury, tight-knit nose displays lemony, spicy fruit. Minerally palate has great balance and lovely lemony fruit. Good concentration: the oak is in the background and itís fresh in character with good acidity. Very restrained and quite brilliant. Excellent (£8.99 Christopher Piper Wines, Buy Great Wines, Victor Hugo Wines) 

De Wetshof DíHonneur Chardonnay 1999, Robertson
Deep yellow. Quite a full, nutty nose with a complex, evolved butterscotch character. Rich, full palate is nutty and intense. Quite evolved (too much so?). Very good+ (£9.99 Welshpool Wine Co) 

Longridge Chardonnay 1999, Stellenbosch
Quite a full, nutty, butterscotchy nose with lifted acidity. Concentrated, full flavoured nutty palate. Savoury, and in a rich style, but perhaps a little crude round the edges. Very good+ (£8.99 Oddbins, The Wine Society) 

Plaisir de Merle Chardonnay 1999, Simondium (Franschoek)
Rich, meaty, bready nutty nose with a rounded creamy edge. Nicely savoury on the palate with well-integrated but still-prominent oak. Very good+ (£9.99 Majestic, Safeway) 

Siedelberg Chardonnay 1999, Paarl
Expressive nose shows lifted acidity, creamy/ toasty oak and lemony fruit. Chunky, savoury palate shows good balance. Very good+ (not in UK)

Slayley Chardonnay 1999, Stellenbosch
Rather sad label (a picture of a ship), but the wine is good. Quite a deep yellow/gold colour. Creamy, nutty toasty oak dominates the nose which shows good complexity and a bready edge. Distinctive, powerful oaky palate is concentrated. Impressive in an old-fashioned style. Very good/excellent (£8.39 Wrightson & Co)

see wineanorak's guide to South African wines

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wines tasted June 2002