Warwick Estate's Chardonnay vineyard is one of the oldest in the country. It was first planted in 1991, during a period when growing Chardonnay was barely legal in South Africa. The drought of the past few years has proved challenging for the Western Cape's winemakers, but through their resilience, Warwick Estate has managed to produce some of the region's top Chardonnays - The White Lady being no exception.

A Little History

The story of Chardonnay's embattled voyage to South Africa is a tumultuous one and well worth a read. What began as a game of cloak and dagger has resulted in The Cape wine region becoming one of the world's most celebrated Chardonnay regions.

the White Lady COMETH

As can be expected in periods of drought, Warwick's White Lady faced many obstacles. The winter of 2015 was late with the necessary rains and cold weather only arriving in June and July. It was an exceptionally dry winter and August was uncharacteristically hot.

But despite the duplicitous elements, bud burst occurred on time, initial shoot growth was even, which further increased as a result of above-average temperatures. The short winter ushered in a warmer-than-usual October-November period, accelerating flowering and berry set. 

The drought had placed the vineyards under immense pressure, however, which meant that it produced fewer berries per bunch than usual. Perhaps due to the early summer, the berries also ripened earlier, but because the canopies' growth was stunted, it resulted in excellent overall vineyard balance.

The White Lady at Work

Because the berries - which were handpicked before sunrise while still icy cold - were fewer and smaller, the 2016 vintage is more concentrated. Warwick Estate whole-bunch presses their Chardonnay to limit phenolics and to extract only the best quality juice. Pressed on a delicate Champagne cycle, the juice was pressed into a stainless steel tank, where it was cold-settled for one day (at 10 degrees).

It was then racked to 100% French oak barrels with some fine lees (a sediment of wine that occurs in the barrel). The barrels were then left to start wild fermentation, which lasted six months. No yeast was added - only the natural yeast was used.

Once fermented to dryness, the barrels were sulfured and rolled once a week to stir up the lees. After 10 months in the barrels, the wine was racked, fined and given a light filtration before bottling.

Taste Description

  • Medium, fresh acidity and rich mouthfeel

  • The nose has layers of flowers, minerals and stones, with loads of white nectarine interspersed with the nuttiness of poached pear

  • The palate is silky yet austere, with a rounder finish

Pairing Suggestions

The White Lady has a taste for the orient - with Hokkien noodles with chicken, chilli and bean sprouts being one of her favourites. She can certainly hold a touch of heat. When she's in a more classic mood, she favours a béarnaise gratinated salmon and fresh salad. She prides herself on being versatile, however, and is equally at home with a simple Camembert and crusty bread.