TLDR: A definitive South African Chardonnay that MUST be experienced by any SA wine lover //
Quality: 18/20 //
Price: R175 – R220 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value: 4/5 //
Ponce factor: High //
Occasion: Sitting on your own, far away from anyone who might guilt you into sharing this //
Key words: Batonnage, Triton Winemaker Awards//
Vivino rating //
This wine is not only the result of superbly selected Elgin fruit, but also impeccably executed winemaking. She spends 9 months in oak & 100 days on its lees, with regular batonnage. The result is yet ANOTHER Triton Express Winemaker’s Choice Diamond Award (The Mentors Chardonnay has garnered this award for two out of their last three vintages).
As for the wine itself…Aromas carry yellow apple, with subtle vanilla & hints of lees-inspired yeast.
Mouthfeel is full & creamy, with beautiful Seville oranges, apricots, vibrant lemon zest & an attractive hint of macadamia nuts (admittedly I needed some prompting to detect it, but now I can’t miss it).
To fill those awkward silences…
I am not going to drag you through another monologue on why the KWV’s Mentors range is so important to the South African wine scene, as I have already gushed like schoolgirl at a Bieber show over here.
Instead, I thought it worth talking a little bit about some of the stickers you’ll see on the bottle, as by and large stickers are little more than annoying eyesores devised to try and boost sales. There are, however, some stickers that actually mean something, and I will try to talk about these awards whenever they crop up.
And while I’m at it…
Why the Triton Diamond award is not just another sticker:
- The panel of judges is made up exclusively of winemakers. It is safe to say that a seasoned rugby player will better be able to appreciate watching the performance of a legend of the game, but may struggle to identify with the achievement of a world-class master ballet dancer. The same can be said of a wine lover who understands a little about the process of making wine; he or she is aware of all that could go wrong (or right!), and thus is better able to appreciate the performance that went into making the bottle that they are drinking.
It is logical then to conclude that a competition judged almost exclusively by winemakers will truly produce winners who are masters at their craft.
- Only 10% of the entrants win prizes. There are wine awards where a “gold medal” is actually third place. A “double gold” would be second place, and a trophy award would be the actual winner. This is horribly misleading, and leads many a consumer to buy what they think is a gold medal winner (or silver…or bronze… because, hey, at least they’re on the podium, right?!) when it is nothing more than just a hair’s breadth above the average of all the wine’s that entered. By keeping the awards for only the top 10% of wines entered, one can ensure that anything carrying the Triton Express Diamond Award sticker is actually worth investing in.
- I have yet to buy a Triton Express Winemakers’ Choice Diamond Award wine that has left me disappointed.
The practical application of this observation is that we can place a little more faith in a wine with the Triton Diamond Award sticker, than we might in, say a wine bearing an award like the Vitis Vinifera award. Or, in the same vein, the proud label of “Chucky’s Cheese’s Most Huggable Bargain Buy”.
What is Batonnage?
“100 days on its lees,” you say. “With regular batonage”, you add. Well, it all sounds great, unless you have no idea what batonnage is. If not, a beating at the hands of riot police.
In short, Batonnage is just the process of regularly stirring up the dead yeast cells (the lees) that remain in a wine after fermentation, having settled to the bottom of the barrel, or tank.
Obviously, in red wine this happens all the time, so it’s no big deal, but in white wine, it is a little more noteworthy. It was first performed in Burgundy France during the production of Chardonnay wines, where, instead of completely removing all traces of dead yeast cells, a winemaker would let the wine mature with the dead yeast cells, thereby adding a richness to the wine. KWV winemaker Johann Fourie’s decision to mature his Chardonnay sur lie (or on the lees) would have been to try and use these yeast cells to enrich the texture of the wine, producing a creamier mouthfeel, or buttery texture on the palate.
“Okay,” you say, “But you need to focus. Tell us about Batonnage.” To which I say, “Fair Deuce.”
Batonnage is quite simply the act of stirring up the lees in order to increase level of contact between wine and yeast and therefore increase the contribution that the yeast makes to the end result.
One can overdo it, producing an unpleasant bready, yeasty result, but,as I may have hinted before, Johann Fourie knows a little about winemaking.