This cultivar was originally found in Burgundy in the eastern part of France and smuggled to South Africa in the 1970’s. This green skinned grape boasts tropical, butter and honey flavours in the medium climate of South Africa. Marklew Family Vineyards situated in The Simonsberg ward on the R44 has an ideal terroir (soil, climate and slope) for Chardonnay. Chardonnay in South Africa is usually ready to harvest at the beginning to mid February. This year was no exception even though we experienced an extremely hot period around Christmas time which spikes the sugar levels inside the grapes faster than the acids.
At harvest we picked the grapes at a 24.5 Balling (natural sugar level inside the grape), pH of 3.5 and with a natural acidity of 5.8. The pressed grape juice was then moved into stainless steel tanks where fermentation (the change from sugar to alcohol thanks to natural and added yeast) took place. The juice was inoculated with Laffort VL 2 yeast and supplemented with Thiazote (an organic nutrient found inside the grape) which ensures the fermentation runs smoothly and with no risk of a stuck fermentation. The fermentation period lasted for 10 days. The newly fermented grape juice was then moved into barrel where maturation and malolactic fermentation (a second fermentation where the harder malic acid changes into a softer lactic acid) took place.
During malolactic fermentation we used an airlock bung whereby no oxygen could enter the barrel (which is the main cause of wine spoilage) but carbon dioxide (the by product in wine making) can escape through a bubbling effect out the top of the barrel. These bungs are used to monitor the progress of malolactic fermentation or second fermentation. Once the water inside the airlock stops bubbling we know that the malolactic had finished its process and the wine was ready for its maturation stage in barrel.
The wine will be left in barrel to mature for a further 6 months or so to allow the natural minerals, lemon, lime and full buttery flavours to develop as the oak works it’s magic to soften the tannins inside and develop a full mouth filling characteristic in the wine.
In the meantime here’s a home recipe that I cooked last night to pair with a Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2015 (or any Chardonnay for that matter):
- An onion
- Freshly chopped garlic
- Coconut oil
- 300g chicken breasts
- 300g streaky bacon
- Punnet of mushrooms
- 250ml cream
- Black pepper
- Basil pesto
- Penne pasta
Finely chop the onion, garlic and brown in 2 Tsp coconut oil. Add the thinly cut bacon and cook till done. Add some of the pepperdew brine to the pan to give flavour. Add the cubed chicken breasts the have been parboiled in another pan.
Add the cream and 250ml Chardonnay with the mushrooms and pepperdews. Leave to cook.
Boil the pasta with a pinch of salt. Once ready mixed the pasta with the sauce and continue to simmer. Add a Tsp of basil pesto the mix and serve with a 14 degrees Celsius chilled glass of your Chardonnay 2015! Voila!
Look out for my next blog on my Merlot 2016!