And the winner is...
GLEN CARLOU CHARDONNAY 2009
South African Chardonnay may have been a major beneficiary of the increase in cooler climate coastal plantings but, despite being located inland in the northern foothills of the Simonsberg mountain between Paarl and Stellenbosch, Glen Carlou has steadfastly maintained its reputation for top Chardonnay since its first vintage in 1988.
It is Head Winemaker Arco Laarman’s favourite variety and he attributes Glen Carlou’s success to the fact “we have always produced a more restrained style of Chardonnay with one foot in the New World and one in the Old World.” He explains, “we work very oxidatively during the juice stage of the wine” which increases the wine’s potential to age and lends complexity, as does leaving the wine un-sulphured for its first five months in barrel.
What’s more, in the much lauded late and relatively cool but dry 2009 harvest, he says “the vines were in the best condition we have ever experienced” and “as Chardonnay is our main white grape [Glen Carlou harvests almost 250 tons] great care was taken in the vineyard and cellar to make this our best performing white variety.”
To achieve the desired complexity and balance, the Chardonnay for this Trophy Winner hails from 10 different sites averaging 210m above sea level and was hand-harvested over three weeks. Barrel-fermented with several different yeast strains matched to ripeness levels, Laarman offsets the citrus-driven/higher acidity earlier picked batches with later picked riper stone fruit characters.
To keep the emphasis on freshness, only around 30% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation before being lees aged with batonnage for 10 months in 225 and 300 litre French oak barrels, just 30% of which were new.
Written by Sarah Ahmed