The X-factor of Franschhoek Chardonnay

Viticulturists agree that Chardonnay is quite an easy variety to produce. It can be planted in most wine countries where it can result in a wine of satisfactory quality. Even non-traditional wine countries such as Zimbabwe, has in the past produced acceptable Chardonnay.

With the release of the 2015 La Motte Chardonnay and 2013 La Motte Méthode Cap Classique (68% Chardonnay), Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche shares his thoughts on what it is that makes Franschhoek Chardonnay special.

“Chardonnay’s popularity makes it one of the most planted white varieties in the world – about 160 000 ha. It is also planted in more wine grape areas than any other grape variety.

As such, Chardonnay is also found in Franschhoek and the Valley offers a variety of styles as well as a host of Sparkling Wines, made by at least every third wine producer in the Valley. With a Méthode Cap Classique Route and a Champagne and MCC festival prominent on the Franschhoek Tourism Calender, Chardonnay has become central to wine production in Franschhoek.

Together with Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay is one of the three most planted varieties in Franschhoek, and together with Semillon, it is regarded as the future of wine production in the Valley.

Does Franschhoek Chardonnay deserve this status? Those in the know says Chardonnay performs best when planted in lime-rich (chalky) soils, something Franschhoek does not have. Franschhoek’s climate is also much warmer than the head office of Chardonnay – Burgundy and Champagne. Franschhoek does have poor, well-drained soils – another prerequisite, but can that be enough? Still, Franschhoek Chardonnays consistently perform well and have been listed under the Top 10 of the Chardonnay du Monde competition.

Although understanding all the variables can be a challenge, it is difficult to deny that Franschhoek Chardonnay has that special X-factor. The recognisable lime, citrus and cashew nut on the nose, a creamy texture with minerality on the palate and a lingering follow through. And as a tribute to the French Huguenot heritage of our area, Franschhoek Chardonnay often offers that oatmeal character some of the best French examples are known for.”

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