The Hemel-en-Aarde Cabernet Sauvignon that Continues to Defy Expectations – Tasting the Restless River Main Road & Dignity 2018…

Cabernet Sauvignon is not supposed to be this successful in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the Walker Bay region. But like innovators before him, think Tim Hamilton-Russell, Craig Wessels has never been one to settle for conformity or pre-set industry parameters of quality with his wine styles. The track record is now so firmly established for the Restless River Cabernet Sauvignon that Craig certainly has no problem selling out of allocations of this exceptional expression.

Many of the 2017 reds reached heights of quality not seen for many years (2015 aside), so expectations for 2018 and the last drought vintages were understandably very high. This is a premium priced wine (circa £55 to £59pb retail) which consumers expect to reach certain quality heights every vintage. Craig Wessels has done a sterling job with the 2018 and while the main release in South Africa was already at the beginning of 2022, the wine is only now being offered seriously in the UK. If you have not tried this stunner, treat yourself. It’s a fascinatingly individual expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Restless River Main Road & Dignity Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 14.5% Abv.

A 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from two single vineyards, namely Main Road (1.59 hectares) and Dignity (0.71 hectares) in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley matured for 23 months in 225 litre barriques with approximately 25% new oak. Located five kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean in the heart of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir country, this exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon red continues to confound the sceptics. Coming from the last of the proper drought vintages, Craig Wessels has captured a wonderfully opulent and heady expression of Cabernet Sauvignon with plenty of exoticism and ripeness while never losing a certain feeling of classicism and elegance. Tasted over two days, the wine shows an impressive depth of black and blue berry fruits with initial notes of plum skins, pressed violets, wet leaves, sapidity and sweet cedar spice followed by tilled earth, salty black liquorice and cherry kirsch liquor nuances. On the palate the fruit depth is broad and plush with a dark cherry and black currant intensity, hints of graphite and iodine and finishing with a fine-grained mineral tannin grip and yet more salty liquorice notes. The 2018 vintage seems more Napa Valley than Stellenbosch / SA in style but certainly a very well honed, opulent expression. Drink this now and over the next 10 to 15 years. (7,765 bottles produced.)

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Available to the trade in the UK from SWIG wines. (www.swig.co.uk)

Tasting the Cape of Good Hope Sneeuwkrans Elandskloof Pinot Noir 2018 from Anthonij Rupert Wines…

In 2006, Johann Rupert initiated the search for all vineyards in South Africa older than 35 years. Traditionally the South African wine industry depended on tonnage, meaning that the meagre yields of older vines often resulted in them being removed and replanted. What was left in the ground represented some pretty spectacular pockets of old vines tended by people who either kept them out of sentiment or foresight. Old vine fruit often guarantees extra intensity, texture while conveying a real sense of place.

Preserving these old vineyards is now regarded as an act of social responsibility toward South African wine and the people who invested in them despite the odds. In 2016, owner Johann Rupert agreed to sponsor the Old Vine Project and André Morgenthal and Jaco Engelbrecht were appointed after both having been informally involved with the project for some years.

Situated in the isolated Elandskloof Valley just North of Villiersdorp, Altima was purchased from the Overnstone Family in 2008. It is 5km wide and surrounded by a steep mountain range rising 1km from the valley floor. With a total average rainfall of 906mm per year, irrigation is generally unnecessary before the end of December. Coupled with the huge difference in temperatures between night and day, this continental climate is perfect for grapevine development. Good decomposed shale soils from the Malmesbury group are the predominant soils on the farm. With high water-retention, organic matter and usually no chemical limitation, it facilitates vigorous growth. Vineyards are planted from 600m above sea-level, with the highest vineyards planted at 878m. The steep topography causes the valley to receive less direct sunlight, making for a distinctly cooler climate.

Cape of Good Hope Sneeuwkrans Pinot Noir 2018, WO Elandskloof, 13% Abv.

Sourced from vineyards in the Elandskloof, an area renowned for producing premium Pinot Noir grapes, Anthonij Rupert Wines has created an exciting expression in 2018 from North-East and South-Western facing slopes consisting of decomposed shale at an altitude of 690 to 714 metres. The aromatics are suitably earthy and wild with hints of bramble berries, sweet herbs, sun raisined cranberries, red currant and strawberry compote. The palate is fleshy and plush with finely crafted tannins, a silky soft mouthfeel with plenty of finesse and textured elegance and a long, sweet fruited finish boasting notes of red cherry, red plum, blood oranges, sweet wood spice and earthy hints of cured meats on the finish. Complex and approachable now, you can enjoy this wine over the next 3 to 5 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Impressive New 2022 Creation Winery Releases With Owners JC and Carolyn Martin…

Probably one of the most important developments in the South African wine industry over the past 30 years has been the success of selecting the most suitable vineyard sites for the correct variety, leading to regions like Stellenbosch being dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, the Swartland by Syrah and Rhone varieties, Constantia Valley by Sauvignon Blanc and of course Walker Bay and the three Hemel-en-Aarde wards by Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You can use the best vine material and the best cellar techniques, but if the variety is not suited to its planted site, quality will inevitably be capped.

JC and Carolyn Martin, the owners of the Creation winery situated in the picturesque Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge ward, are synonymous with the production of world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and bought their original 22 hectares of virgin land in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and completed their cellar in time for their 2007 harvest. Their Walker Bay estate has grown since then and now encompasses 50 hectares planted with over 11 varieties, but focused mainly on the production of premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

I recently caught up with JC and Carolyn over a zoom tasting session hosted in London by Dr Winifred Bowman CWM.

White Wine Flight:

Creation Reserve Chardonnay 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

Shows an impressively complex aromatics array of vanilla pod and yellow citrus, where sea breeze and rock salt nuances mingle with hints of reduction, struck flint and tart green melon. The palate shows fabulous freshness, tension and intensity of savoury yellow citrus with hints of leesy lemon biscuits, vanilla pod and a tart apple strudel complexity. Lovely crystalline freshness and an impressive dry, mineral finish. Very difficult to fault this delicious Chardonnay. Drink now and over 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Art of Chardonnay

Made from 18 year old vines in 2020, only 2,150 bottles were produced. Main soils here are bokkeveld shale with a seam of quartz. Whole berry pressed, unfiltered, straight out of the press made possible with very healthy fruit. It was then fermented in 228 litre French oak barrels with circa 30% new blonde barrels using much more solids than previously. No Battonage on the Art of Chardonnay with also 100% malolactic fermentation. Earlier picking and using the juice straight out the press represent the biggest changes in production.

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

1.8 g/l RS | 6.9 g/l TA | 3.16 pH

Aged 10 months in 30% new, 70% second fill. 50/50 wild yeast and inoculated portions. Dense, rich creamy leesy oak profile, there is massive depth and breadth on the aromatics with lemon butter, dried herbs, tarte tatin, caramelised apples and delicious savoury biscuity notes. The palate is taut and steely with a real malic-styled tension despite the 100% malo. The massive focus and intensity of the aromatics follow to palate which shows impressive linearity, cool yellow citrus pastille and a tantalising stony minerality of limestone with a kiss of spearmint on the finish. Power packed and almost overwhelming at this youthful moment, this is good for ageing in the cellar for at least 3 to 5 years before opening. Seriously impressive world class Chardonnay expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Glenn’s Chardonnay 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.75% Abv. 

1.7 g/l RS | 7.0 g/l TA | 3.14 pH

Aged for 10 months in 50% new, 50% second fill barrels. With fruit coming from the Art of Chardonnay grape selection, this is merely the wild yeast fermentation portion. The result is a noticeably more earthy, savoury, leesy expression with subtle hints of struck flint reductive notes, limestone minerality, grilled herbs, sourdough and lemon brioche nuances. The palate is more supple and fleshy than the Art 2020 with a glycerol breadth and depth while all the while being kept in check by racy, tangy acids. Beautiful lemon and lime cordial notes lead to a long, intense, finish that has more in common with Chassagne Montrachet or Puligny Montrachet than anything from the New World. Really very impressive indeed. (600 bottles produced.)

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Art of Chardonnay 2021, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

1.6 g/l RS | 6.3 g/l TA | 3.4 pH

Aged for 10 months in oak, 30% new and 70% second fill. A softer and more accessible expression with slightly lower earlier picked percentage as well as slightly lower acids on the Chardonnay grapes at picking. Plenty of delicious ripe lemon peel, pineapple pastille, grapefruit and a subtle lemon biscuit complexity with a kiss of herbs, vanilla pod and dusty gravel minerality. The texture is noticeably softer, riper and fleshier with lemon butter, grilled herbs and lemon rind but still retains beautifully pure, crystalline acids together with a pithy minerality. Very impressive but should be ready to drink before the 2020 Art.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Red Wine Flight:

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2019, WO Walker Bay, 13.5% Abv.

3.1 g/l RS | 5.5 g/l TA | 3.50 pH

60-65% whole bunch on the wine which really shows on the aromatics with elevated notes of chalk board duster, sappy spice and a freshly cut hedge row spice before waves of black bramble berry, mulberry and black currant rise to the fore. The palate is soft and harmonious with a very relaxed feel, boasting sappy leafy black berry note, beautifully supple tannins and a deliciously integrated freshness. Sappy and savoury suggests this is ready to drink now and over the next 8 to 10 years. (3,500 bottles produced.)

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2020, WO Walker Bay, 13.2% Abv. 

Already showing a pronounced leafy, grape skin aromatics with sappy sweet phenolic notes, dried herbs and layers of graphite and crushed limestone minerality. Supple and soft on the palate, there is an impressive elegance and finesse leading to impressive textural balance and harmony. Good to go now.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Creation Art of Pinot Noir 2021, WO Walker Bay, 13.6% Abv. 

80% whole bunch portion in the wine shows through beautiful spice on the nose intermingled with a sweet bramble berry wildness, dried herbs, crushed stone minerality and black plum intensity. The palate is texturally very attractive with a sublime balance, creamy black berry fruits, exotic wild herb nuances and harmoniously integrated acids. Benchmark premium Pinot Noir quality!

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Alheit Family Wines Hereafter Here 2020 – Tasting the Impressive New Chenin Blanc…

Never one to rest on his laurels, Chris Alheit is probably one of the hardest working winemakers in South Africa and, rightly so, one of the most successful too. After recovering from his mid-life crisis speed wobble a few years ago when he threatened to terminate the Cartology project, Chris has knuckled down to refocus on not only the quality of his sought-after single vineyard wines but has also continued to increase the quality of his mega-brand Cartology.

So with everything on his plate, Chris of course decided to create yet another SKU in his portfolio, this time a young bush vine Chenin Blanc at a slightly more accessible price point. Certainly not another Flotsam & Jetsam revival brand… the grapes for this new edition come from two young blocks in Stellenbosch, 70% from Polkadraai Hills and 30% from the Upper Blaauwklippen Valley. The juice was spontaneously fermented and matured in used oak barrels before bottling.

Alheit Family Wines Hereafter Here Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Western Cape, 13.5% Abv.

This is definitely an exciting Chenin Blanc and initially on opening showed some of the opulent, fruity, fleshy exuberance that I remember tasting on the very first Cartology 2011. The aromatics are loaded with ripe pear, quince, peach, apple purée and hints of melted honey on warm white toast with sweet dried herb nuances. The palate is tangy and bright with a fleshy mouthfeel, a creamy rich texture that shows an impressively savoury yellow orchard fruit concentration with deliciously fresh acids that lend structure and balance. This is an impressive debut for this new young vine cuvee from Chris Alheit. Drink now to enjoy its youthful opulence and over the next 3 to 6+ years. (9,036 bottles produced)

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tesselaarsdal Releases Their Most Impressive Chardonnay Vintage Yet…

The Tesselaarsdal wine brand was founded in 2015 by long-standing Hamilton Russell Vineyards employee Berene Sauls and was named after the historic Overberg farming hamlet of Tesselaarsdal, which lies inland from the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge wine appellation where Berene sources all her grapes.

The maiden release of the Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay was only the 2019 and already within three vintages, Berene has managed to fine tune the style of this wine to show the best of a very fine, cool vintage in 2021. Extreme care is taken to ensure that this small-production classically Old World-styled Chardonnay expresses the terroir of the cool maritime Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge fruit sourced from un-irrigated vines grown at elevation on stony clay and iron-rich soils.

Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2021, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13% Abv.

This is a supremely elegant, taut mineral expression of cool climate Chardonnay with classically restrained aromatics of green pear, Granny Smith apple, crushed gravel, dried green herbs and hints of white citrus and tangerine peel. Like the subtle aromatics, the palate shows incredible tension and vibrancy but again without overt obvious opulence. This wine is a masterclass in elegance and restraint showing a cool, lean, crystalline palate built around minerality, electric acids, and a lean old world elegance. This is undoubtedly next level quality and intensity for the Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay. Drink this taut focused effort now and over the next 8+ years. Really impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Crystallum Prepares for the Release of Two Eye-Catching Premium Chardonnays in Mid-2022…

I was lucky enough to catch up with Peter-Allan Finlayson for a lovely tasting and lunch last year on his spontaneous blink-of-an-eye visit to the UK to touch base with the wine trade (and also take in the Springboks versus Scotland rugby game at Murrayfield). So it was an extra special treat to hear that Peter-Allan would be over again in January to preview a few new vintages due to be released onto the market in May/June 2022.

Peter-Allan’s Crystallum wines are in the enviable position of being quite tightly allocated to start with and generally selling out nationally four to five months into the 12 month calendar. But his wines have earnt their quality reputation vintage after vintage and are sold at very moderate prices considering the quality and market demand. Getting an early look-in at new vintages thus becomes a very valuable exercise every year.

Crystallum Agnes Chardonnay 2021, WO Western Cape, 13% Abv.

Peter-Allan Finlayson describes the 2021 Agnes as a wine with great delicacy, elegance and a lithe light touch crystalline purity. Indeed, this wine is incredibly sleek with fabulous zesty aromatics of lemon and lime biscuits, dusty grey slate and hints of honeydew melon. On the palate, the wine is beautifully elegant and pure boasting boiled lemon bon bons candy, white peach and a subtle salty, leesy, savoury complexity on the finish. Lovely precision, light-touch intensity and concentration of flavour on the long, linear, persistent finish. An understated wine that will appeal to sophisticated drinkers. Drink on release and over 5 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Crystallum Single Vineyard Ferrum Chardonnay 2021, WO Overberg, 13% Abv.

The grapes for the second release of Ferrum Chardonnay are sourced from a one hectare slice of 12 year old vines located within a seven hectare vineyard block on iron rich soils that lies just three kilometres beyond the Creation Winery (in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge) at Shaw’s Mountain in the Overberg. The other six hectares were planted by Peter-Allan more recently and currently go into the Agnes Chardonnay cuvee. The original part of the vineyard was based around Sauvignon Blanc vines that were field grafted over to Chardonnay. The aromatics show seductive lactic lemony tangerine notes of yellow citrus pastille, subtle salted toffee and delicate vanilla wood spice nuances over a flinty minerality. The palate is full, crystalline and finely balanced with a plush textural glycerol mouthfeel displaying hints of caramelised lemons, lime peel, lemon biscuits and salted vanilla ice cream on the finish. Another very impressive pinpoint, seamless expression of Chardonnay from Crystallum. Production is tiny so the challenge is always to track down a few precious bottles that you can drink on release or over 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Draaiboek Wines Releases Their Second Vintage of the Onskuld Chardonnay 2020 From the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge…

Draaiboek wines is a name that might be new to many. Though I did review the maiden release 2019, this is essentially a new wine company that was created by five friends who met while studying at the University of Stellenbosch in the early 2000s. The foundations of their friendship were formed during the frequent wine tastings and wine routing jollies indulged in as students. After graduating, everyone eventually headed out to write their own stories. Yet, despite different borders and time zones, they always checked in with every changing chapter of each others lives. Now, after many years of friendship, the different characters have come together once again to produce Draaiboek Wines, born out of a love for wine and the stories that it tells.

Draaiboek means script in Afrikaans, and as Pieter Lemmer, one of the London based partners tells me, “…we believe every wine has a story to tell. We released our first wine in September 2020, a 2019 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge Chardonnay. We chose the name Onskuld (meaning innocence) for our first wine to represent our innocent naivety in starting this journey (many lessons were learned in the process!). We operate essentially as a negociant buying in fruit, and so far, we’ve sourced all our grapes from a single block of 10-year-old north-east facing Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge vines at 300 metres altitude planted on Bokkeveld shale with a high clay content”.

The Draaiboek wines are made by another good friend of theirs, Stephanie Wiid from the well know Thistle and Weed winery, who they have also known for many years. Stephanie, along with viticulturalist Etienne Terblanche, have sourced and selected the fruit from a specific single block at La Vierge in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge although in 2021, a second block of Chardonnay has been added to increase the volume of wine produced. For the maiden 2019 vintage only 200 x 6 were produced, rising to 300 x 6 for the 2020 vintage. Watch out for their 2021 Pinot Noir also made from Ridge fruit that is still in the cellar but should be released in 2022.

I recently tasted a sample of the 2020 Onskuld Chardonnay which was aged on its fine lees for 11 months and saw 30% new oak in the final blend, aiming to give the wine more structure than the 2019 while still showing all the hallmarks of Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge minerality. Draaiboek Wines follows a philosophy of minimal intervention in the cellar, allowing the quality of the terroir to express itself. This certainly seems to be a new boutique name to watch.

Draaiboek Wines Onskuld Chardonnay 2020, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5% Abv.

2.4 g/l RS | 6.2 TA | 3.38 pH

In 2020 this Chardonnay is all still sourced from one single Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge block. Mindful of the wine’s youth, I opened my sample and tasted over two days to give the wine the full benefit of oxygen. This certainly is a very impressive wine and a considerable step up on the delicious maiden 2019. The aromatics show complex multi-dimensional layers of sea spray, white flowers, orange citrus oil, freshly baked buttered croissants and pithy lemon rind notes. Very pure and precise, the palate reveals an incredibly elegant, creamy leesy texture with no shortage of tension and minerality, all supported by an intense but seamless concentration of green and yellow fruits, pineapple pastille and lemon bon bons nuances. The length is truly striking, lingering then very slowing fading gradually on the long finish as if someone was slowing turning down the taste volume. The acids are fresh as you’d expect from Ridge fruit but also fabulously tangy and bright. Like a great work of art, this 2020 requires a measure of reflection and contemplation to fully appreciate its beautiful construction, pristine balance and superb harmony. Give the wine plenty of air, decanting if necessary, and don’t serve too cold. A wonderfully complete wine that should drink well from release and over 6 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Some Exciting New Sauvignon Blanc Releases from 2020 – Tasting the Painted Wolf Lightning…

After eight days of extensive tastings for the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2021 as the South African panel chair, it became very apparent that the 2020 vintage Sauvignon Blancs being released at the moment offer up a real treasure trove of styles and expressions, but all exceptional quality from entry level pricing all the way up to premium single vineyard releases.

This excellent Painted Wolf Sauvignon Blanc made by the talented Jeremy Borg, is named after Lightning, thought to be one of the most famous endangered wild dogs living in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Made from pristine cool climate Walker Bay coastal fruit, this wine exemplifies the quality of many of the premium examples hitting the retail shelves now. Don’t miss out!

(Other cool climate Sauvignon Blanc expressions from nearby to watch out for include Wild Air from Hannes Storm, Southern Right and Creation.)

Painted Wolf Lightning Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Walker Bay, 12.5% Abv.

The grapes for this wine were hand picked, hand sorted and whole bunch pressed then fermented in large French oak barrels and a solitary concrete egg using only natural wild yeasts. The aromatics are beautifully pure and high toned with spicy notes of fresh lemon grass, pithy white citrus peel, capsicum and hints of crushed gooseberries. Any oak notes are incredibly delicate and seamlessly integrated highlighting the extreme precision with which this classy Sauvignon Blanc was assembled. The palate is fabulously cool, crystalline and pure laced with crunchy green fruits, subtle green herbs, yellow grapefruit, hints of bell pepper spice and finishes with a stony, flinty, wet river pebble length. Compact, vibrantly cool climate with crunchy acids and wonderfully balanced, this is another class act from Jeremy Borg. Drink now until 2025+.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Tantalising New Releases from Jessica Saurwein – Part 2: Om Pinot Noir 2020…

The third wine in Jessica Saurwein’s impressive range after her Elgin Chi Riesling and Nom Pinot Noir from WO Elandskloof is her Om Pinot Noir made from fruit grown in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge in Walker Bay, Hermanus.

Sourced from a dryland grown vineyard situated just 12 kilometres from the sea which lies at 300 metres above sea-level, the soils are granitic in origin with a significant portion of clay. The Burgundian Pinot Noir clones planted in 2006 are 115 and 667.

The grapes were hand-picked and cold soaked prior to fermentation which began spontaneously with natural yeasts. Post fermentation, the wine spent 10 months in a combination of new and older 228 litre French oak barrels.

The new home of Saurwein Wines at Waterval farm in Stanford, Walker Bay.

As if two new stellar Pinot Noir releases wasn’t enough, Saurwein Wines has now found a exciting new home at Waterval farm in Stanford. Jessica and family recently moved to the farm and will embark on a regenerative agricultural farming venture including the establishment of a small vineyard over the next year or two.

Saurwein Om Pinot Noir 2020, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, 13.5% Abv.

While the Saurwein Nom and Om cuvees exhibit similar youthful foresty aromatics of savoury red and black berry fruits, bramble berry spice and a roasted cashew nut complexity, it’s on the palate that the real brilliance of the Om cuvee is revealed. Utterly vivacious and vibrant, refreshingly tart and fresh, boasting notes of cranberry, red cherries, pomegranates and blood oranges with a beguiling stony mineral tannin seam running through the wine. The wine finishes with hints of espresso, exotic sweet baking spices and a supremely sleek harmonious length. This is a class act, both sophisticated and seamlessly balanced. A new benchmark for Jessica. Bravo! Drink now and over 10-15 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Release an Impressively Sophisticated New 2020 Chardonnay…

Hamilton Russell Vineyards run under the watchful eye of Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell are well established as one of the most respected Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers in South Africa. With their winery retaining an obsessive and loyal legion of drinkers and collectors only matched by the likes of fellow icon brands like Meerlust Rubicon or Kanonkop Paul Sauer, quality and consistency has always been the Hamilton Russell calling card.

With Emul Ross firmly in control of winemaking since the 2015 vintage, it is incredible to think that after 30+ years, this estate’s finest wines may lie in future vintages still to be born.

Winemaker Emul Ross and Anthony Hamilton Russell at the barrel cellar.

The 2020 vintage was a touch earlier than usual beginning in the first week of February and was also wetter than the previous few vintages. A standout feature of 2020 was however the exceptional phenolic ripeness at lower-than-normal alcohol levels which helped produce a wine that is taut, tight, minerally expressive and texturally very classical showing the usual Hemel-en-Aarde Valley cool climate length and complexity.

95% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation in 228 litre Francois Freres French oak barrels before being aged for a total of 9 months in 24% new French oak with 5% aged in foudre.

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2020, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, 12.9% Abv.

3.45pH | 6.90 TA | 2.20 RS

If 2018 produced a super taut, reductive serious expression and 2019 showed a lusher, more forward, accessible opulence, then 2020 is perhaps a marriage of these two styles. This is a wine full of confidence and composure, brimming with taut white citrus pith, green pear and lime peel, bruised green apples, white blossom and a complexing saline oyster shell minerality. On the palate there is a feel of density, dry extract, concentration and a really precise harmonious balance with layers of green melon, sweet lime jelly, melted butter and a full glycerol finish with just the faintest hint of butterscotch, lime cordial and vanilla pod spice. Seemless and sleek, the layers just melt into each other leaving a sensation of utter completeness. What a truly fabulous wine, resplendent in its mellow classical restraint, intense concentration and harmonious length. A big high five for Emul Ross!! Drink on release and over the next 10-12+ years. (51,516 bottles produced)

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)