Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2019

In a bizarre turn of events, I find myself with an alarming number of bottles of Chardonnay.

It’s no secret that this is a grape that I’ve struggled with, but I’ve graduated from ‘scorn’ to ‘sceptical’. So, in preparation for the Wine Wise Chardonnay session , I thought a bout of immersion might serve to temper any side-eye sneers.

Immersion started with a virtual tasting with PQ Wines , a phenomenal writer who has become one of my favourite people on the gram. It still blows my brain that zoom allowed us to taste the ‘same’ wine, 15 000 km apart. Do yourself a favour and head over to her website to say hi, and to read her review of the 2018 vintage of this Chardonnay.

The Wine:

Pale lemon in colour, with a pronounced nose of lemon, nectarines, almonds, vanilla, grapefruit pith and day old campfire.

Dry, medium acidity, a surprisingly medium body, and a long finish. It must have been a full hour before either of us took a sip of the wine that we’d poured - a solid argument for decanting white wines!

The first sip showed a curious flavour that reminded me of feverfew (related to chamomile) with its bittersweet medicinal properties, preserved lemon, salinity, along with definite tannins. Midway through, the medicinal flavour and tannin receded, revealing tinned pineapple juice. And herein the beauty to this wine...by the last sip, it had evolved to include sweet rich oysters, even more smoke, and yet more salinity. You can’t help but to picture the vineyard’s proximity to the ocean. It’s now become customary for me to sniff the empty glass, and this delivered all the smoky ripe peaches and pears that I’d missed at the beginning.

Viti & Vini:

Grown on low-vigour, stony, clay-rich, shale-derived soils in the Hemel-en-Aarde-Valley.  93% of the grapes were fermented  in 228 litre French oak barrels, and 7% were placed in foudre for 9 months. 27% first fill, 33% second fill, 35% third fill and 5% fourth fill.


Balance (1) + Length (1) + Intensity (1) + Complexity (1)  = An outstanding wine. 

Drink now, but  potential for a little further ageing. 

Final Thoughts:

It’s a sophisticated and complex wine that leads with savoury minerality, rather than fruit. I’m still doubtful over the premium price point. But that might have more to do with my hesitancy about the grape, rather than the quality of the wine.

Chardonnay = 1. Scepticism = 0. Side-eye = non existent because meeting and talking to  PQ Wines made this tasting one of my fave moments of 2020.

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