Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Releases their Chardonnay 2011 - the 30th Vintage
Last week was the released of the 30th vintage of Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay, the 2011.
With the release of the Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot noir 2010 expected in mid January, they will have both their 30th vintage of Pinot noir and our 30th vintage of Chardonnay in the market simultaneously – a real milestone for this iconic South African winery!
Both wines remain true expressions of the site and soils in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.
The 2011 Chardonnay has a particularly beautiful fruit profile (pears and limes) and a generous viscous palate balancing the tight, dry, mineral core of the wine and the bright line of natural acid. The vintage was a touch warmer than 2009 and 2010, which accounts for the wines slightly more generous palate at this point in its development. The alcohol at 13.23% remains low however.
2011 is the first vintage to contain a small percentage of Chardonnay fermented and aged in 160 liter stoneware amphorae (see picture).
This initiative has been underway since 2005 when they made their first terracotta amphorae.
These turned out to be too porous so they eventually moved to stoneware. With these vessels, they achieve the same air-exchange as a barrel, but avoid the pick up of oak flavours and tannins.
They are lined with clay off their property.
The amphorae are perfect for the oldest Chardonnay vineyards, where even at extremely low yields, the grapes ripen at much lower alcohols – 12% for example.
These vineyards make 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.
Their next 9 amphorae arrive in time for the 2012 vintage and with an order of a further 9 for 2013, Hamilton Russell Vineyards will have between 5% and 10% of their Chardonnay amphora fermented and aged.