The remarkable Deconstructed wines of Richard Kershaw, Elgin, South Africa

chardonnay south africa

The remarkable Deconstructed wines of Richard Kershaw, Elgin, South Africa

kershaw deconstructed chardonnay

Richard Kershaw is a British ex-pat and MW who has been making his own wines out of Elgin for a few years now. Previously he was winemaker at Mulderbosch. Richard has received lots of critical acclaim for his Chardonnays, and has been pivotal in leading the current Elgin Chardonnay crusade: his new releases represent a step up in prestige and pricing for this variety in the valley, so it was great to get to taste them. He’s also making really good Syrah and Pinot Noir.

The new release here is a three-pack of ‘deconstructed’ Chardonnays, which sells for 2400 Rand. 250 bottles each of these wines were produced, and they specify the clone and the soil type. There’s a similar three-pack of desconstructed Syrah, too.

I asked Richard about his inspiration for these wines:

My inspiration really came from the fact that South Africa has often struggled with the concept of regionality (producing ever more different wines from different grapes yet within one locale) and how one can put a stake in the ground to prove that regionally does and can exist.

Part of my personal mandate is to help try and put Elgin on the map with a signature grape, one that shows the quality that Elgin can produce. For me, Chardonnay can be that signature grape. This doesn’t mean that other grapes can’t be part of the equation, it simply means that Elgin should becomes synonymous with Chardonnay in the same way that Marlborough is with Sauvignon Blanc, Barossa with Shiraz or Clare with Riesling.

Producing my Clonal Selection wines enabled me to make a claim for Chardonnay being a grape that works well in Elgin. Being part of a group of like-minded producers will enable us to give confirmation that Chardonnay is the grape that Elgin can nail to its mast.

At the same time, this is but a step along the way and the point of my Deconstructed range of wines was to be able to show how different terroirs within the Elgin meso-climate can also show differences and add to the ongoing story.

By bottling different parcels of single vineyards means that the sites within Elgin can be highlighted and makes the case for Elgin more compelling. (Making them also clonal specific makes it even more interesting when comparing similar soils with different clones and in the future the same clone on different soils – I have bottled 2015 Syrah Clone 9c on 2 different sites).

In a way it is like taking my Clonal Selection and comparing to a bottling of say a Drouhin Premier Cru.

Drouhin will select different Premier cru sites and blend them together to make say a Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru. Meanwhile, Drouhin might decide to bottle each site individually under that named site: Puligny Montrachet La Truffiere 1er Cru; P-M Champ Gain 1er Cru; P-M Les Combettes 1er Cru, etc. Each site will have a flavour profile that will be different but importantly, not necessarily better than one another. The main crux lies in the consumer deciding that they prefer a Truffiere against a Combettes or vice versa. However, reverting to the straight Premier Cru, the consumer may decide that wine is equally as good and again different rather than better.

The opportunity to bottle these Deconstructed wines was thus inspired to help show the differences within the multitude of sites within Elgin. Essentially, if we really want to make a difference in the long term we need to dig deeper into what makes Elgin what it is. It may just be that in 100 years, we decide to classify parts of Elgin ourselves as we come to understand the terroir better.

Although this may sound Chardonnay based, the same applies to the Syrah Deconstructed. Interestingly, although Pinot Noir is the obvious calling card with Chardonnay, it is with Syrah that I have found a resonance with the current buyers around the world as they look for Syrah made in a lighter or medium bodied style, one that in restaurants isn’t restricted to pairing with steak but being able to show more versatility.
Interestingly, Syrah shows that it has a distinct style when grown in Elgin given it is cool climate Syrah. As more benchmark wines are produced, Syrah will certainly have more identifiable regional DNA.

For my Deconstructed Syrah, it may be too ahead of the curve but it is worth putting out there how Syrah can show differences on site and as you see the only difference for the 2014 are clone related (22 and 9c) as the 2 vineyards are bang next door to each other on Cartref soils. However…in the future, we may find more difference as vineyards are rarely homogenous and the slope off one is slightly steeper than the other – but that will be for another day!

Kershaw Deconstructed Chardonnay CY96 Groenleand Koffieklip 2015 Elgin, South Africa
Taut, mealy and spicy. Very linear with nicejuiciness. Fresh, spicy and taut with lovely mineral intensity. Has a bit of pear richness but also some taut, mineral character. 94/100

Kershaw Deconstructed Chardonnay CY95 Lake District Bokkeveld Shale 2015 Elgin, South Africa
Generous pear and citrus fruit. Rounded and textured with a fine mineral edge, and some mandarin notes. Very fine and delicate but also has power, walking a tightrope between richness and finesse. Green tea and herbs, too. 96/100

Kershaw Deconstructed Chardonnay CY458 Groenland Bokkeveld Shale 2015 Elgin, South Africa
Lovely intensity: very fine and expressive with nice spiciness. Citrus, pear, spice and a bit of pith. There’s some tangerine and grapefruit, too. Lovely precision: this is a Corton Charlemagne clone that usually gives austere, robust wines that are meaty and broad. Distinguished and fine. 94/100

Kershaw Deconstructed Clonal Selection Syrah 2014 Elgin, South Africa
Peppery and bright with juicy red fruits and a hint of herbiness. Lovely black cherry and pepper with some olive. A bright wine with nice focus. 92/100

Kershaw Deconstructed Syrah Lake District Cartref SH22 2014 Elgin, South Africa
The two deconstructed clonal selection Syrahs are from the same south-facing block on Cartref soil, which is granitic with broken stones. Fine, fresh and expressive with black pepper, cherries and raspberries. Fine spices and some herby notes add detail. Fine-grained, fresh and vibrant. 94/100

Kershaw Deconstructed Syrah Lake District Cartref SH9c 2014 Elgin, South Africa
Dense, fresh, spicy and vivid with blackberry and black cherry fruit with lovely pepper and spice notes. Vivid and bold with firm black fruits. Juicy and intense. 93/100

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