The Chardonnay produced in South Africa’s Hemel en Aarde has long been considered world class – but just good is it really? Wanting to put this to the test our roving contributing editor and world class chef, Roger Jones, decided to blind-taste the best Hemel en Aarde can offer, alongside the rest of the New World – wines from California, New Zealand, Australia and Chile, amongst others.
Some of the Hemel en Aarde wines include Restless River, Newton Johnson, Ataraxia and Storm Vrede.
Hemel en Aarde showcase their Chardonnay against some world class opposition. On a glorious South African summer’s day our intrepid traveller, Roger Jones provided a stellar line up of New World Chardonnay to pit against the region’s best Chardonnay.
The tasting was blind, in flights of five wines served in Riedel Chardonnay glasses, marked out of 20 and judged by 11 winemakers and nine international guests. There was little dispute in the scores with Hemel en Aarde clearly the winner on the day, the clean vibrant precision of these wines shining brightly. The purity and natural essence of these wines enthralled the judges.
This region has clearly come of age, producing superlative Chardonnay, 23 wines were tasted and here are the wines in order of score:
- Ataraxia, Hemel en Aarde Ridge 2015
- Sumaridge, Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley 2015
- Restless River, Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley 2016
- Stargazer, Tasmania 2016
- Newton Johnson Family Vineyards, Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley 2017
- Crystalline Clay Shales, Hemel en Aarde Ridge 2016
- Neudorf, Moutere, Nelson, New Zealand 2014
- Penfolds Bin A, Adelaide Hills, Australia 2014
- Whalehaven Conservation Coast Chardonnay, Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley 2016
- Die Kat se Snor, Hemel en Aarde Valley 2017
- Brokenwood Indigo, Beechworth, Australia 2016
- Beringer Private Reserve, Napa, USA 2013
- Storm Vrede, Hemel en Aarde Valley 2015
- Dutton Goldfield, Russian River Valley, USA 2015
- Creation The Art of Chardonnay, Hemel en Aarde Ridge 2017
- Kumeu River Mates Vineyard, Auckland, NZ 2015
- Bouchard Finlayson, Missionvale, Hemel en Aarde 2016
- Hamilton Russell,Hemel en Aarde Valley 2018
- Errazuriz, Las Pizarras, Chile 2015
- Bread and Butter, Napa Valley, USA 2016
- Alban Vineyards, North, Edna Valley, Califonia, USA 2013
- Strekov, 1075, Slovakia 2015
- Planeta Didacus, Sicily, Italy 2014
Of course one could argue that the 11 South African winemakers influenced the outcome, but in my mind I clearly agreed with the scoring, but we will host a similar challenge in July back in the U.K. and see how this region fares then.
It was good to see Stargazer do the best from outside the region, this clearly was very similar to the Hemel en Aarde style, the general comments from the winemakers was that they found some of the wines slightly forced and ‘played with’, whilst they try and allow the grapes to shine in their wines.
With food I am sure the result may well have been different, but there is no denying that this region produces superlative Chardonnay. And congratulations to Kevin Grant, the overall winner who received the Riedel Chardonnay Trophy for his Ataraxia Chardonnay 2015.
Roger Jones is currently in South Africa hosting numerous pop ups, challenges and food and wine-matching experiences.