Eikendal has long kept a low profile despite the wines having been of more than passable quality. How to explain this? In recent times high winemaker turnover has not helped the cause of this Stellenbosch property, the long-serving Josef Krammer replaced by Lizelle Gerber in mid-2002, Gerber replaced by Henry Kotze in mid-2004 after she left for DGB and Kotze sticking around until mid-2009 before he moved to Morgenster.
Some kind of stability seems to have returned with Nico Grobler now winemaker, having been Kotze’s understudy since 2006. Grobler is intent on making Eikendal wines in a “tighter, fresher” style (not that there’s ever been anything too overblown about them) and yesterday he showed the 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages of the property’s Chardonnay as well the 2005, 2006 and 2008 of its Bordeaux-style red blend Classique.
A major innovation with regards the Chardonnay is that since the 2009 vintage, it features multiple pickings, one quite green (19.5° Balling) for freshness, one slightly riper for mid-palate and one at full ripeness (23° Balling) for richness. It seems to work well enough, both the 2009 and 2010 showing more nuance than the 2008. The current-release 2010 spent eight and half months in French oak, 30% new. Grobler eschews excessive batonnage so the wine appears particular primary at this stage but should gain complexity in the bottle. It sells for R90 a bottle from the farm.
Classique, meanwhile, seems to be moving in a more accessible, modern style with Grobler employing more Merlot in the blend and the wine being subjected to less oak both in terms of the amount of new barrels used and the time spent in barrels.
The current-release 2008 (R150 a bottle) is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot and spent 18 months in French oak, some 20% to 30% new. It comes across as medium bodied and smooth textured compared to the more powerful and tannic 2005 (80% Cab, 20% Cab Franc; 24 months in barrel, 70% new) and the pleasantly herbaceous and lively 2006 (70% Cab, 15% Cab Franc and 15% Merlot; 24 months in barrel, 50% to 60% new).