Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2019
A tight, mineral wine with classic Hamilton Russell Vineyards length and complexity. Prominent pear and lime fruit aromas and flavours are brought beautifully into focus by a tight line of bright natural acid and a long, dry minerality. An elegant, yet textured and intense wine with a strong personality of both place and vintage.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Unlike the Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir in the fireaffected 2019 vintage, the Chardonnay was all made with estate fruit. Entirely whole bunch-pressed for the first time, it’s a commendably bright, elegant and focused wine with less malolactic (10%) than normal, pithy acidity, a hint of stone fruit sweetness and refined 27% new French oak. Something of a triumph against the odds.
A beautiful wine from a great vintage, aromas of sea spray, apple flesh and a touch of melon form the delicate nose of this precise Chardonnay. The palate is light and somewhat linear on entry, but then waves of ripe, lightly toasted orchard fruit and mouthwatering acidity dance across the palate and into the bright, focused finish. This is a baby, so give it more time to truly shine. Drink 2024–2029.
Bursting from the glass with elegant oak tones, the 2019 Chardonnay effortlessly sashays out of the glass with sweet citrus aromas, spiced yellow apple, caramelized pears, cinnamon nutmeg and oatmeal cookie essence. Medium-bodied yet packed full of complexity and layers, the wine splashes down on the palate with finesse, precision and persistence. Still spritely and youthful, flavors of sweet citrus and pastry cream continue to somersault across the palate with elegant oak tones, lingering long on the evolving finish. Another stunning Chardonnay from Hamilton Russell Vineyards. Bravo. Rating: 92+
Hamilton Russell Vineyards – one of the most southerly wine Estates in Africa and one of the closest to the sea – pioneered viticulture and winemaking in the beautiful, cool, maritime Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation, just behind the old fishing village of Hermanus. Tim Hamilton Russell purchased the undeveloped 425-acre property in 1975, after an exhaustive search for the most southerly site on which to make South Africa’s top cool climate wines from a selection of noble varieties. His son, Anthony Hamilton Russell, who took over in 1991 (finally buying the property in 1994), narrowed the range to only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and registered Hamilton Russell Vineyards as an Estate, committing to work only with grapes from their terroir. Today, Anthony and his wife Olive, winemaker Emul Ross, and viticulturist Johan Montgomery are completely dedicated to expressing the personality of the Hamilton Russell Vineyards terroir in their wines. Tiny yields and intense worldwide demand keep the elegant, highly individual, estate-grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in very short supply.
With an important wine renaissance in full swing, impressive red and white bargains abound in South Africa. The country has a particularly long and rich history with winemaking, especially considering its status as part of the “New World.” In the mid-17th century, the lusciously sweet dessert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Since then, the South African wine industry has experienced some setbacks due to the phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s and political difficulties throughout the following century.
Today, however, South Africa is increasingly responsible for high-demand, high-quality wines—a blessing to put the country back on the international wine map. Wine production is mainly situated around Cape Town, where the climate is generally warm to hot. But the Benguela Current from Antarctica provides brisk ocean breezes necessary for steady ripening of grapes. Similarly, cooler, high-elevation vineyard sites throughout South Africa offer similar, favorable growing conditions.
South Africa’s wine zones are divided into region, then smaller districts and finally wards, but the country’s wine styles are differentiated more by grape variety than by region. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is the country’s “signature” grape, responsible for red-fruit-driven, spicy, earthy reds. When Pinotage is blended with other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir (all commonly vinified alone as well), it is often labeled as a “Cape Blend.” Chenin Blanc (locally known as “Steen”) dominates white wine production, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc following close behind.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.