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“This is the best I’ve made,” declares cellarmaster Nico Grobler of the Eikendal Chardonnay 2015 just released by the Stellenbosch wine estate. It’s quite a claim considering the flagship wine’s lineage of excellence.


Among the Eikendal Chardonnay’s most recent achievements was its 2014 vintage rated overall champion in the esteemed 2015 Prescient Chardonnay Report for scoring the highest points. The annual assessment by highly regarded wine authorities involves a blind tasting of 60 of South Africa’s most high-profile wines in the category.


“It is always amazing to see how in the most challenging vintages the greatest wines emerge,” says Grobler. The harvest in 2015 was at that stage the earliest recorded vintage on the renowned property between Somerset West and Stellenbosch.


Harvesting for Chardonnay began on January 8, more than a week before the usual period around January 20. “I had to make a few gutsy decisions,” Grobler recalls. “Among them was whether to play it safe and allow the fruit to stay on the vine for longer or to pick early to retain freshness and purity. The Burgundians taught me however that in times of uncertainty, it’s always best to focus on the latter.


“It worked magically,” he says.


The vines that produced the Eikendal Chardonnay 2015 comprise four different clones, each grown in the specific way suited to reveal its best in the fruit. The vineyards were planted at different densities per hectare. They were also cultivated differently, including a combination of bush vine; bush vine-and-post; Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP) trellises; and, a technique called Guyot-pruning.


“Everything in the vineyard was done to enhance complexity,” says Grobler.


During harvest, each block of Chardonnay was picked and vinified on its own. The bunches of grapes were pressed whole and all the fermentations started in tank before the juice was moved to barrel. All the batches underwent wild fermentations, an approach that elevated the terroir character of the wine.


The team then used 500L custom-made Burgundian oak barrels, most untoasted to preserve freshness, length and tightness. Some 20% of the wine was exposed to new oak and the remainder in 2nd, 3rd and 4th-fill barrels. It was then aged 14 months in barrel to ensure as much evolution of the wine as possible. Further elegance in mouthfeel and enticing complexity was added by 20% of the wine being allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation.


“This wine is as clean and pure as you will find,” says Grobler. “It is supported by great minerality, beautiful length and tightness. There’s a hint of richness on the palate.


“It is like fresh mountain water, which is why I like to say great Chardonnay will always make you thirsty,” he adds, jocularly. “2015 is one of those vintages where the wine is built on all the small complexities inherent in Chardonnay; all those little things you can’t touch, but only dream off. Now, give it 10 to 15 years and richness will develop in the bottle to add even more complexity.”


Eikendal is known for its focused and structured wine pedigree that showcases the best in varietal recognition. It enjoys a very favourable climate with excellent light and a near-perfect blend of warmth and coolness thanks to its proximity to False Bay and surrounding mountains that is ideal for optimal berry, colour and structure development.


Its latest arrival – the Chardonnay 2015 – retails for only R155 per bottle at the cellar door. It can also be found at selected fine wine outlets and restaurants countrywide.