2020 Vision in Chardonnay Focus
The just-released De Wetshof Limestone Hill, one of South Africa’s most popular unwooded Chardonnays, emphasises the reputation 2020 is garnering for being an exciting vintage for white wines. According to Johann de Wet, CEO of De Wetshof Estate in Robertson, weather conditions were dramatic and erratic during this year’s harvest, yet the wines on this pioneering Chardonnay estate are showing true class.
“Harvest 2020 will go down as one during which the vineyards experienced four seasons in one growing and ripening period,” says De Wet. “From the time the first Chardonnay buds appeared in August 2019 to the end of harvest the natural elements threw everything at us. There were cool, mild conditions during bud-break and flowering. As summer set in, one or two hot days were experienced, and as we began picking grapes the heavens opened bringing lashings of rain – one part of De Wetshof received over 60mm of precipitation in a four-day period!”
But the mild weather during the early parts of summer allowed the grapes to ripen evenly and build ideal acid-to-sugar ratios resulting in perfect chemistry in the young wines. “This year’s Chardonnay harvest shows wines of freshness, varietal character and complexity,” says De Wet. “This feature of vintage 2020 can clearly be seen in latest release of Limestone Hill, one of the five wines in De Wetshof’s range of site-specific Chardonnays.”
The grapes for Limestone Hill are picked in the coolness of morning, with the emphasis on capturing the natural complexities of the Chardonnay grape immediately for the making of this un-wooded wine. After de-stemming, pressing and overnight settling the juice is racked-off from the sediment and pumped into stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, the wine is left on the lees under controlled temperatures. Weekly stirring of the lees ensures maximum flavours are released into the wine until the wines are ready for bottling.
“Like all our Chardonnays, the Limestone Hill is made from vineyards growing on selected patches of terroir that influence the individual style of each wine,” says De Wet. “The key to Robertson is the high limestone content of the soils, limestone being an element ensuring chemical balance and ageability in the wines.”
Heavy clay soils rich in limestone allow the Limestone Hill to emit optimum varietal expression in a cloak of rich complexity. An un-wooded wine, Limestone Hill has notes of grapefruit and nuts, balanced by a nuanced elegance ending in a delicate ripeness.
What is important in making an un-wooded Chardonnay, says De Wet, is that it is not just a matter of keeping the juice and the wine away from oak. “The chemistry of the grapes and the vineyard conditions have to be conducive to producing a Chardonnay that shows its best features in an un-wooded environment,” he says.
The American critic Robert Parker describes the wine as such: “The Limestone Hill Chardonnay never sees oak, and offers impeccably pure, refreshing apple, peach and lemon fruit, a lovely leessy richness of texture, and a nutty, chalky, fruit-filled finish of imposing length. Understated and less tropical than some of the better un-oaked Australian Chardonnays, this wine possesses far better balance and sheer drink-ability – not to mention more finesse – than 99% of the world’s Chardonnay I have experienced at its price.”
The wine is superb with oysters, cream-based pasta dishes and light curries, as well as roast pork and veal dishes.
Recommended retail price: R95