Hamilton Russell Vineyards: Hemel- en -Aarde Valley, Hermanus, Western Cape.
We have finally received our next 9 small 160 liter stoneware amphorae for the 2012 Chardonnay harvest. This follows research we initiated in 2005 into the benefits of fermenting and ageing a portion of our Chardonnay in clay vessels instead of oak. It took us some time to find a South African potter able to produce these for us. An additional 9 amphorae have been commissioned for the 2013 harvest.
These small stoneware amphorae have been designed to deliver the same amount of “air-exchange” as a barrel but without (clearly) imparting wood tannin, oak flavour or flavours from the toasting. They are each lined with clay from our property before firing.
These amphorae are perfect for our oldest Chardonnay vineyards, where even at extremely low yields, the grapes ripen at much lower alcohols – 12% and even below. These vineyards produce wines that are all too easily overwhelmed by newer wood, or lack vibrant freshness in older wood. The lower alcohol wines from the amphorae are wines of great beauty, finesse and freshness, with remarkable density given the alcohol levels.
It is our intention that the amphorae fermented and aged Chardonnay component eventually makes up around 10% of Hamilton Russell vineyards Chardonnay. Our Chardonnay has been doing extremely well locally and internationally, but we are always looking for new ways to refine and “improve” our wines further. It is wonderful to see this long-standing initiative finally producing quality results.
We were really pleased when a recent (Feb 1st, 2012) Wine Spectator Insider, reviewing a number of South African white wines, gave our 2010 Chardonnay the highest score – a 93 – and included it in their list of Hot Wines. These are the most exciting discoveries from their editors’ most recent tastings. This makes our 9th consecutive Chardonnay score over ninety – or Outstanding.
This is how Senior editor at the Wine Spectator, James Molesworth, describes our 2010 Chardonnay – “Lush and inviting, with layers of fig, persimmon, mango and creamed Jonagold apple fruit, all supported by finely beaded acidity that lends definition and length to the finish. More cut and length than just weight in the end.”
Well known South African sommelier, Miguel Chan, also liked our 2010 Chardonnay and scored it 94+ saying that it was “without a doubt one of the world’s top 25 Chardonnays, including top Burgundies.” The panel of French judges at the 14th Classic Trophy Awards rated our 2010 highly as well, giving it the trophy for best white wine.