2016 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay

Year: 2016
Appellation: Hemel-en-Aarde Valley
Country: South Africa
Wine Advocate: 93
Vinous Media: 93+
White Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 13.0%
Price :

"The 2016 Chardonnay underwent less malolactic than other vintages to preserve the acidity, around 40%, and the wine matured in 38% new oak for nine to ten months. Yields were very low at around 20 hectoliters per hectare. It is much less rich than the 2015, yet it displays finer delineation and perhaps more mineralité. The palate is very well balanced with superb tension, brimming full of energy and fanning out with nutmeg and smoked walnut notes towards the somewhat feisty finish.

I have a lot of time for Hamilton Russell. That's not to say that everything they touch turns to gold or that they create the best Pinot Noir in South Africa bar none. No, what I appreciate is a sense of honesty about their wines. They reflect the growing seasons, they are not infallible, yet they always have personality, wear their hearts on their sleeves. For example, I re-tasted their 2014 Pinot Noir with Anthony Hamilton-Russell as I queried its showing last year and...nope...it still didn't do much for me, unable to shrug off a foxiness that deprives it of delineation and freshness. This was highlighted by much better showing of both the 2015 and 2016s. Winemaker Emul Ross has taken the reins from winemaker Hannes Storm, who now has his own label (see separate entry) and he seems very capable, an assured pair of hands as they convert to organic viticulture. Also, readers should not overlook their Chardonnay and their 2016 is a little cracker, thanks in part to the low yields of 20 hectoliters per hectare. The only thing left to mention is the Hamilton-Russell's dogs. Their great dane bounded towards me like a hair dinosaur. Surely a candidate for the largest canine in the world?" (WA)

"(13% alcohol): Bright, light yellow. Highly perfumed but tight nose hints at citrus peel, nectarine, white flowers and stony minerality. Lemony and tight but deep, with terrific salty mineral energy giving punch to the pear and lime flavors. Distinctly backward, savory Chardonnay with lovely subtle, rising length and grip. This wonderfully elegant, taut, seamless wine needs time to blossom and put on weight. Classically tight and austere for this bottling." (VM)