Yesterday the bi-annual Celebration of Chardonnay hosted by Robertson property De Wetshof took place with renowned wine writer Andrew Jefford making the keynote address.
He spoke of Chardonnay as a variety which “loves to travel” – retaining its basic varietal character but because of its site sympathy acquiring singularity wherever it is grown. He went on to suggest that its intrinsic character “needs drawing out, picturing and framing” but warned that “any lack of subtlety or excess of ambition will be punished”.
He drew the distinction between “wines of method” and “wines of place” and argued that ripeness is much more than sugar levels at picking and resulting alcohol by volume and suggested we concentrate more on the “phenolic journey” of the grapes, adding that no two regions have identical definitions of maturity.
For Jefford, altering the constitution of the must (whether by chaptalisation or acidification) is equivalent to “defacing terroir. He said that wines of method would always be less successful in the market place but whatever method was applied could be obtained and replicated by a competitor and urged producers to pursue wines “which expressed a sense of their place on earth” and were “chemically uncompromised”.
A tasting of 16 examples of Chardonnay from the north, south, east and west of the South African winelands followed and then a five-course lunch with a further 24. A stand-out was the De Wetshof The Site 2013, perhaps not the outright best of the day (it rated 3½ Stars in the Chardonnay Report earlier this year) but remarkably singular with an abv of 12.43%, RS of 1.5g/l, TA of 7.3g/l and pH of 3.12 and surely a wine of place rather than method.
To read Jefford’s speech in full, download the following: Jefford speech