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2014 Vondeling Chardonnay, Paarl, South Africa
At the foot of the Paardeberg, this 40 hectare working wine farm, owned by Julian Johnsen, Anthony Ward, and Richard Gower, has a tranquil atmosphere with panoramic mountain and vineyard views with Table Bay and Mountain visible in the distance.
The area around Vondeling Wines is rich in indigenous fynbos and four species are unique to the Paardeberg mountain – Babiana noctiflora, Erica hippuris, Oscularia paardebergenis and Serruria roxberghii.
Their Baldrick Shiraz was initially only sourced from the younger vines, but as the vines are no longer so young, selections are now made from the blocks and clones which provide more aromatics and a more accessible palate. The vineyards are planted on well weathered granite derived soils on south and southeast facing slopes. In total six clones of Shiraz were planted, all making different contributions to the final wine which is notably for the purity and accessibility of its fruit, not always a characteristics of the Cape’s reds. And why is the wine named after Blackadder’s hapless (yet recently ennobled) sidekick? A cunning plan, no doubt.
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
At 18,000 hectares, the Paarl wine district incorporates the wards of Paarl and Wellington and Franschhoek (where in 1688 fleeing Huguenots from France set up home, bringing winemaking skills and vines).
Being further inland, warmer and lower-lying than its neighbour Stellenbosch, the greater Paarl district is more inclined to produce gutsy wines from granite and clay soils, typically from the Shiraz and Chenin Blanc varieties.
Joostenberg Wines in Paarl and Boekenhoutskloof in Franschhoek are two impressive producers.
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