The just-released De Wetshof Limestone Hill, one of South Africa’s most popular unwooded Chardonnays, emphasises the reputation 2023 is garnering for being a top vintage for white wines in the Cape, especially Chardonnay. This despite inclement weather and heavy rainfall playing havoc in the Cape winelands during the 2023 harvest season.
According to Johann de Wet, CEO of De Wetshof Estate in Robertson, the bulk of the farm’s Chardonnay vineyards had been harvested before the heavy rains fell on the winelands at the beginning of March.
“Fortunately, De Wetshof’s position in the Robertson Wine Valley allowed us to mostly avoid the effects of the inclement weather,” says De Wet. “Our harvest season traditionally kicks-off a week or two before regions closer to Cape Town and we were out picking Chardonnay in the second week of January. With 80% of De Wetshof planted to Chardonnay and the various blocks ripening in tandem, our prized white variety had been harvested well before the first harvest-season rains descended in the first week of March.”
De Wet says that De Wetshof’s Limestone Hill 2023 shows the quality of this year’s white wines, mild conditions in the vineyard resulting in structured, balanced wines.
“The cooler weather during our harvest assured firm, bracing acids as a backbone for the myriad gorgeous Chardonnay flavours to attach themselves on and we will thus be remembering vintage 2023 for the exceptional quality, while memories of the intemperate weather takes a backseat,” he says.
The grapes for Limestone Hill are picked in the coolness of morning, with the emphasis on capturing the natural complexities of the Chardonnay grape immediately for the making of this un-wooded wine. After de-stemming, pressing and overnight settling, the juice is racked-off from the sediment and pumped into stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, the wine is left on the lees under controlled temperatures. Weekly stirring of the lees ensures maximum flavours are released into the wine until it is ready for bottling.
“Like all our Chardonnays, the Limestone Hill is made from vineyards growing on selected patches of terroir that influence the individual style of each wine,” says De Wet. “The key to Robertson is the high limestone content of the soils, limestone being an element ensuring chemical balance and ageability in the wines.”
Heavy clay soils rich in limestone allow the Limestone Hill to emit optimum varietal expression in a cloak of rich complexity. Limestone Hill, and unwooded wine, is characterised by notes of grapefruit and nuts, balanced by a nuanced elegance ending in a delicate ripeness.
What is essential in making an un-wooded Chardonnay, says De Wet, is that it is not just a matter of keeping the juice and the wine away from oak. “The chemistry of the grapes and the vineyard conditions have to be conducive to producing a Chardonnay that shows its best features in an un-wooded environment,” he says.
The American critic Robert Parker describes the wine as such: “The Limestone Hill Chardonnay never sees oak, and offers impeccably pure, refreshing apple, peach and lemon fruit, a lovely leessy richness of texture, and a nutty, chalky, fruit-filled finish of imposing length. Understated and less tropical than some of the better un-oaked Australian Chardonnays, this wine possesses far better balance and sheer drink-ability – not to mention more finesse – than 99% of the world’s Chardonnay I have experienced at its price.”
The wine is superb with oysters, cream-based pasta dishes and light curries, as well as roast pork and veal dishes.
Recommended retail price: R115.