Andrew Jefford picks his favourite South African Chardonnay wines from De Wetshof Estate and throws in a Pinot Noir and Bordeaux blend for good measure.

With Chardonnay accounting for 75% per cent of production, De Wetshof is definitely a specialist winery. It’s sited in the inland region of Robertson, so at first glance this cool climate variety may seem a surprising choice.

Robertson, though, has a fresher mean February temperature (23˚C) than both Paarl (23.2˚C) and Swartland (23.3˚C), despite lying beyond the mountain chains which frame the Cape’s Coastal region; and its limestone soils are also highly propitious for Chardonnay.

‘I love that variety,’ said Danie de Wet, estate owner and who initially smuggled it into the country to bypass quarantine rules.

  • From smuggling to wine politics: Danie de Wet talks to Andrew Jefford in the September issue of Decanter magazine. Subscribe now.

De Wet has now been joined by sons Johann – the current chair of South Africa’s Chardonnay forum – and winemaker Peter. Peter’s own passion is for red wines, so expect to see the De Wetshof red wine offer begin to rival its impressive Chardonnay range over coming vintages.

(Editing by Chris Mercer)

Jefford’s six De Wetshof wines to try:

De Wetshof Bon Vallon Chardonnay 2014

Classic varietal warmth and freshness — benchmark Chardonnay scents, perfect for blind tasting practice. Apple, lemon, melon, peach, crème anglaise: fresh and appetising. Fresh, bright, vivid and juicy on the palate; satisfying mid-palate fullness and roundness of contour, with clean fruit definition. Fruits are a little more tropical on the palate than on the nose. A delicious varietal wine. Alcohol: 13.5%

Score: 88

Drink: 2015-2018

Stockist: £9.69, £9.99 Frazier’s Wine Merchants,The Wine Reserve, £10.50 Hercules Wine Warehouse £10.50

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2013

Fresh, leesy and pure: very classy Chardonnay scents. On the palate, this is soft, vinous, finely balanced yet gratifyingly textured, pure and long – an unwooded Chardonay (from rich limey-clay soils) of surprising finesse and amplitude. After-flavours of cheese straws and hazels. Alcohol: 13.5%

Score: 90

Drink: 2015-2020

De Wetshof The Site Chardonnay 2013

From a single site planted in 1986 on limey gravel soils. Green apple and green plum, filled out by subtle oak. The wealth and resonance of flavour is slightly reined in here, but it’s enjoyable, elegant wine nonetheless, with a graceful, subtle finish. Alcohol: 12%

Score: 89

Drink: 2015-2020

Stockist: Hedonism Wines £23.75

 

De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay 2012

De Wetshof’s top Chardonnay comes from a selection of sites on rocky clay-limestone soils, and gets 12 months in French oak. It has warm, gratifying scents of lemon, plant sap, fresh cobnuts and damp earth. A core of very bright lemon fruit dominates the palate; concentrated, vivid and long, with finishing vinosity, too. Alcohol 13.5%.

Score: 91

Drink: 2015-2023

Stockist: 2009 vintage D&D Wine £23.33, Four Walls Wine Company £24.50

De Wetshof Nature In Concert Pinot Noir 2010

Palely authentic colours, with light, smoky red fruits. Lively and searching flavours; good purity, length and Pinot classicism. It lacks, by contrast, a little inner flesh and lift; dryly structured towards the finish. Nonetheless pleasant drinking. Alcohol: 14%

Drink: 2015-2018

Score: 86

Stockist: 2009 vintage Four Walls Wine Company £19.60, £21.99

De Wetshof Louis Michel Thibault 2010

This Merlot-led Bordeaux blend is named after the architect who designed the original De Wet homestead in Cape Town, now a museum. Attractive fresh dark fresh fruits, especially plum, on the nose, with a lovely fleshy fruit presence and vivacity on the palate: balanced, drinkable and exuberant. A little more tannic depth would add gravitas. Alcohol: 14%

Score: 89

Drink: 2015-2019

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