Less than an hour outside the beautiful Cape Town, the Glen Carlou estate is producing some of South Africa’s finest wines. While the winery was first established in 1985, it was taken over by Hess Family Estates in 2003. Hess is known for producing highly sought after New World wines and is partial owner to Bodega Colomé in Argentina, and the famous king of the Barossa Valley, Peter Lehmann Wines.
WineCollective’s CEO, Matthew, had the opportunity to visit the Glen Carlou winery in 2013, where he toured the vineyards, taste the wine with the winemaker and landed the very exclusive deal to bring their 2012 Unwooded Chardonnay to WineCollective members. Before our January packages were released, this wine was quite impossible to find anywhere in Canada.
Only at its second vintage, this Chardonnay is rare not just counting its limited availability. Unlike Glen Carlou’s two other Chardonnays, the Classic and single vineyard Quartz Stone, the Unwooded Chardonnay does not receive any oak treatment. Instead, it undergoes an entirely unique winemaking and aging process of its own.
Grapes are sourced from Glen Carlou’s rich vineyard slopes in the Paarl Valley region, where the estate is located. Aiming to make higher quantities of the Chardonnay, because of the first vintage’s popularity, grapes were harvested from mid January to mid February after reaching ideal maturity.
Winemaker Arco Laarman, imported cement egg-shaped tanks to Glen Carlou from France, which was used to ferment both the 2011 and 2012 vintage. These special eggs, that blends the benefits of wood and stainless steel, allows the juice to slowly adjust its temperature. It also gives optimal control of micro-oxygenation, or the process in which oxygen is introduced to the wine.
Another key difference is that the egg prevents the wine from rising, as it typically does with wood and an increase in temperature. The shape causes the fluid and lees to turn naturally and nourish the wine.
Without the use of wood for fermentation or aging, the 2012 Unwooded Chardonnay is left without the oaky qualities the Chardonnay varietal typically carries. Instead, the wine is fruity and full with a fresh minerality. This extraordinary Chardonnay is now Glen Carlou’s fastest selling white wine in South Africa.
The estate’s restaurant pairs this particular Chardonnay with home cured duck breast that marries rhubarb chitneu, celeriac and pear salad with citrus dressing. While this does sound delicious, the wine will also work wonderfully with grilled seafood or on its own.
WineCollective is very fortunate and excited to have the Unwooded Chardonnay in the Canadian market. We have some extra bottles available in our members only store if you’d like to make this your house white wine! Reach out to the online WineCollective community with your tasting notes and food pairings because we would all love to hear what you think about this rare and celebrated treat!