Opening the bottles for the sighted tasting was an easy task: just a quick twist of the wrist and they were available to pour. Except one – the Almenkerk which was sealed with a cork and required some mechanical intervention.

But doesn’t that tell a tale in itself? All bar one of the 10 wines lined up on the tasting bench were easy to access with twist off tops – and just as easy to reseal should it be necessary. After tasting its way through the various wines the consensus of the panel was that chardonnay offers a lot of variety, both in unoaked and oaked form. The unoaked examples demonstrated how fresh and lively chardonnay can be while the wooded ones boasted more body and length. 

“I would happily drink almost every one of these,” said broadcaster Guy McDonald. “The differences in them were noticeable – the obvious signs being the level of oak exposure or the freshness of the acidity so then it becomes a matter of personal preference: what do YOU like?”

Christine Lundy, who represents Wines of Elgin and thus had skin in the game in the form of the Almenkerk and Clüver wines, said the elements which impressed her were the structure, complexity and refinement on display.

The big positive for Fiona McDonald was that the over enthusiasm and use of oak which ultimately led to consumers saying A-B-C or Anything But Chardonnay, and turning to other styles of wine instead is no longer in evidence. The wines showed subtlety and restraint with the best examples hitting a lovely sweet spot of balance between fruit expression, gentle vanilla oak and succulent acidic freshness.

Are wine drinkers falling back in love with chardonnay? Sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc have held sway over this wine style for many years with consumers preferring the former’s bright acid freshness or the latter’s rich fruitiness. 


Queen OF

Tasting panel: Elvina Fortuin, Christine Lundy, Guy McDonald, Dee Griffin, Fiona McDonald

It was felt that an extra year in bottle and the fact that it was from cool Elgin fruit set this wine apart. Lime cordial, lemon leaf, marmalade toast, buttery but fresh and vibrant. Complex, structured, textured, mouthfilling and yet elegant and refined. Guy’s Nuttikrust biscuit was matched by Dee’s HobNobs, but both agreed that this was rich, statuesque and delightful.

Almenkerk 2020

Durbanville Hills Collectors Reserve The Cableway 2022

Where the previous wine from the same winery has mass appeal, this offers more vivid personality. Also gently succulent from bright acidity but with a granadilla, blackcurrant and even papaya fruitiness countering it.

Good harmony of fruit and acid all underpinned by a restrained and subtle oak platform.

A favourite of restaurant winelists throughout the country, it’s easy to see why. Pleasant apricot, orange and cut apple on the nose and palate. Flavourful, gently textured with unfussy appeal and freshness. Nice lightness and body.

Durbanville Hills 2022

There’s a floral edge to fresh lemon zest on the nose. The palate is bright, succulent and fresh but with richer marmalade and orange notes to balance. Elvina noted that the flavours were more prominent than the aromas but said it added an element of over-delivery and pleasant surprise, especially since it’s not relying on wood for texture and flavour.

Jordan unoaked chardonnay 2022

Tokara 2021

“Quintessential chardonnay,” Guy said of this Stellenbosch example’s light citrus blossom and elderflower perfume and flavour. Fresh, vibrant and lively acidity with a silky mouthfeel, good structure and length. Ample gentle appeal but with structure and presence.

Glen Carlou 2022

There’s no mistaking the wood on this one: big vanilla, caramel and butterscotch with bold ripe orange and even a touch of mango tropicality on both the nose and tongue. “I smiled without thinking,” was how Guy related his experience of tasting it. Dee appreciated the orange blossom florality while Christine commented on its lingering aftertaste. Balanced oak and fruit.

Kleine Zalze vineyard selection 2022

Elderflower and Lily of the Valley delicacy, with more subtle cream and vanilla notes adding to the smooth, rounded mouthfeel of the wine, Fiona found. There is ripe pineapple and mandarin fruit which is countered by lively acid, all supported by well integrated oak. Another long, rewarding tail. Guy summed it up by saying “five O’s and an H – oooooh!”

Kleine Zalze cellar selection 2022

Light fruit – nectarine and guava for Elvina – on both the nose and in the mouth. A creaminess from lees, along with ripe citrus and honey added body and impressive depth to this unwooded example. Great for everyday drinking said Christine.

Paul Clüver Village 2021

Something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing because there’s a lot going on behind it’s seemingly simple exterior, Fiona said. The nose is appealing with typical marmalade and floral notes which are echoed on the palate but it’s both easy and yet complex! Rich, gently creamy and nutty with oatmeal flavours and also bright Crépes Suzette flavour. Christine thought it refined, elegant and balanced with impressive length.

Steenberg 2021

The delicacy of the subtle floral bouquet as well as the linear and taut lime cordial flavour was indicative of the cool Constantia origin of this wine, Fiona said. Dee was a fan of the orange Christmas spice notes while Christine picked up on a light flint nuance. Overall, it was rounded and smooth with good composure.

Spier Seaward 2021

Baked bread and brioche notes with ripe pears, Guy and Elvina said. Typical orange notes on the nose and in the mouth, with a rounded, creamy vanilla richness, Fiona found. Christine liked the almond flavour and thought it complex with well balanced acidity countering the oak and fruit. Impressive long oak tail.