Dinner with Julien Schaal who makes wine both here and in Alsace. He started his career at Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in Chateauneuf du Pape and came to South Africa with the intention of improving his English. He’s worked at Bouchard Finlayson and Newton Johnson but now operates out of the Paul Cluver cellar.
His South African wines consist of a Chardonnay and a Syrah under his own label as well as a Syrah in partnership with Paul Cluver. The reds are good, the whites outstanding. The Chardonnay 2009 is two-thirds Elgin grapes, one-third Hemel-en-Aarde Valley while the 2010 and the yet-to-be-released 2011 are entirely from Elgin fruit. From 2012, he will get his grapes from Paul Cluver specifically. Expect a distinct difference between his wine and the Cluver version: “The property is so big that the two vineyard blocks in question are about as far apart as Puligny is from Mersault”.
Schaal describes his approach to Chardonnay as “nothing special”. No inoculation. Between 30% and 40% tank fermented and no malolactic fermentation to preserve freshness. Nine months in large format oak, around 20% new. The 2009 has concentrated lemon flavour and a great line of acidity. Intellectual in its austerity (score: 18/20). The 2010 is riper, has a wider range of flavour (from citrus through to tropical fruit) and more moderate acidity. Dead sexy (score: 17/20).