Capensis Chardonnay 2013

A trio of alright Chard.

A trio of alright Chard.

Yesterday the launch of a new ultra-premium Chardonnay, the product of a joint venture between Barbara Banke of US wine company Jackson Family Wines and Anthony Beck of Graham Beck Wines.

Viticulturist is Rosa Kruger and winemaker Graham Weerts, who started out at DGB but was lured to the States by the late Jess Jackson in 2004. 60% of grapes come from a farm called Fijnbosch situated above Bartinney in Stellenbosch, 20% from Robertson (some 18 rows on lime soils) and 20% from Kaaimansgat in the Overberg so not a “terroir wine” but rather a “billboard for what the Western Cape can offer”.

Some batches undergoing spontaneous fermentation, others inoculated; around 45% undergoing malolactic fermentation and maturation lasting 12 months in French oak, 55% new.

Total production is 1 000 12-bottle cases and the wine has a suggested retail price of R935 a bottle here (and surpassing icon range Uva Mira 2013 at R600 a bottle as the most expensive in the country) or $85 in the States. Why not a Capensis Chenin Blanc? You have to conclude that the world is simply not ready for Chenin at close to $100 a bottle…

This is no speculative undertaking, Weerts confident enough when launching the wine to show it blind against a top stuff from Burgundy and Australia. My tasting notes and scores below:

Olivier Leflaive Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2012
A pronounced note of reduction on the nose but also pear, white peach and citrus. Lean and savoury with a good line of acidity. Carries oak very well. Weightless intenstity but a bit ungiving at the moment.

Score: 91/100.

Leeuwin Art Series Margaret River 2011
Lime and lemon, flowers and a hint of leesy character. Sweet on entry but a nice pithy finish. Rich and full but balanced – quite a flamboyant wine.

Score: 91/100.

Capensis 2013
Quite a shy nose but fabulous intensity on the palate. Sun-kissed fruit, lively acidity and carefully judged oak – this wine has heft without being ungainly. Archetypal in showing lemon, some appealing leesy character and attractive oak-derived notes of vanilla and spice. An exceptionally, long pith finish.

Score: 95/100.

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6 Comments

  1. EmileJanuary 21, 2015 at 8:32 pmReply

    Christian, how are wines selected for the report? Must they have a track record to make the line-up – Platter stars, gongs – or can they just be included on a whim? Thanks

    • Christian EedesJanuary 22, 2015 at 6:28 amReplyAuthor

      Hi Emile, A bit of both. The line-up is a combination of wines which have fared well in recent local or international competition as well as those from those producers I consider to be the best in their field even if somewhat low profile.

      It bears mentioning that the tasting is capped at 60 wines – while hother bigger tastings can have a useful talent spotting function, the intention with the Chardonnay Report (and sister project the Cab Report) is very much to do good by what might be called the seeded players, the finite line-up in particular intended to avoid the perils of palate fatigue.

  2. KwispedoorJanuary 21, 2015 at 10:57 amReply

    This is really good i.t.o. raising SA’s image amongst export markets. I’m sure they’ll sell it and pocket their R11 million. Sounds like a cracker of a wine, too. *smacks lips*

    Good for the whole industry if they are successful, perhaps less so for the eventual impact on the wallets of SA wine lovers in general…

    However, looking realistically at your average local keen wine lover, I’m with Joe. Provided the correct context (enough good SA competition, tasted blind), any reasonably good value is highly unlikely – of course I haven’t tasted it (and an average Joe like myself is unlikely to), but I think it’s a fair guess. If it wins the Chardonnay Report and beats the next wine – which will need to also be expensive – by about six points, I’ll have to admit that I was wrong.

  3. Grant DoddJanuary 21, 2015 at 10:21 amReply

    Good on them. A wine is worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. This will likely find a homely place in the Jackson Family U.S. distribution network, and do really well. Love the ambition of this.

  4. JoeJanuary 21, 2015 at 9:50 amReply

    Would love to see it tasted blind, in less glamorous circumstances, and in 2 separate flights: 1)- 5 other premium SA chardonnays 2) 5 “pretty good” SA chardonnays costing R150-220 – in both cases using standard tasting glasses. Objectivity is the name of the game, after all…

    • Christian EedesJanuary 21, 2015 at 10:16 amReplyAuthor

      Hi Joe, We also had a flight of bubbly where I had Taittinger Comtes de Champagnes Blanc de Blancs 2005 (93) ahead of Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2009 (91) and Schrambsberg J. Schram 2006 (89) and a flight of Bordeaux-style red blends where I had Verite La Joie 2004 (92) ahead of Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2003 (89) and Latour 2004 (88) so I was pretty happy with how I was tasting. We shall see how Capensis shapes in the Chardonnay Report later in the year…

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