Neil Ellis Elgin Chardonnay 2003

By , 12 March 2013

Growing old gracefully.

The inaugural RE:CM 10 Year Old Wine Awards attracted 73 reds from 39 producers but what of the whites from that vintage? Colleague Angela Lloyd pulled seven examples from her cellar and I added an eighth in the form of Vergelegen CWG Auction Reserve 2003.

Hardly a definitive exercise but three examples of Chardonnay at the top of the pile, evidence once again how well this variety does under local conditions. At the bottom of the pile, two wines which were no doubt impressive in their youth but evidently not built to last – perhaps because we tend to privilege power and weight over balance when it comes to tastings on young wines.

Scores and tasting notes below:

1. Neil Ellis Elgin Chardonnay 2003: 17.5/20
Original rating in Platter’s 2004: 4½ Stars

Broad and wonderfully vinous. Great complexity by virtue of time in bottle – lemon, orange, honey, just enough nuttiness. Coated acidity and a long, savoury finish. Only misgiving is that it seems at its very peak of drinking.

2. Chamonix Chardonnay 2003: 17/20
Original rating in Platter’s 2006: 4½ Stars

Lime and lemon on the nose and palate plus some reduction which suits the wine. Clean and pure with great concentration and bright acidity. Still remarkably primary and perhaps a bit lean and angular.

3. Paul Cluver Chardonnay 2003: 16.5/20
Original rating in Platter’s 2005: 4 Stars

Some vague tertiary notes on a generally shy nose. Quite slight with notes of citrus through peach and apricot. Really zesty acidity. No great complexity but still very much alive.

4.= Klein Constantia Rhine Riesling 2003: 16/20
Original rating in Platter’s 2004: 4 Stars

Attractive nose showing lime, green apple, white flowers and some kerosene. Sweet on entry, snappy acidity. Admirable for its lack of artifice.

4.= Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2003: 16/20
Original rating in Platter’s 2004: 4 Stars

Lime and some attractive herbaceous character. Pure and focused with concentrated fruit and bright acidity. Still primary.

6. Thelema Rhine Riesling 2003: 15.5/20
Original rating in Platter’s 2005: 4 Stars

Lime, tinned pineapple and vague terpene note on the nose. Pleasant enough on the palate but quite advanced – fruit in decline.

7.= Steenberg Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2003: 15/20
Original rating in Platter’s 2004: 5 Stars

Overt pyrazine character on the nose and palate. Also notes of figs and honey. Very rich, still lively but lacks detail.

7.= Vergelegen CWG Auction Reserve 2003: 15/20
Original rating in Platter’s 2005: 5 Stars

Very tertiary with an odd marmite note to go with vague citrus and green pepper. Past best.


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