My recent review of some of the country’s best and most interesting white wines — all of high quality, all true (though often diverse) expressions of the cultivar — indicated that chardonnay would need a column all on its own. SA’s best examples are world-class and plentiful. Unlike viognier, where, despite extensive plantings, it’s a challenge to find a wine worth recommending; or riesling, where there are now only a handful of growers; chardonnay has an ample presence and offers a cornucopia of vinous treasures. Quality chardonnay material is a relatively recent addition to the national vineyard. After an abortive start in the 1970s — some of the vines smuggled into the country turned out to be Auxerrois — the variety only achieved commercial volumes in the 1980s. This coincided with SA’s winemakers discovering small-barrel vinification. The lethal combination of fruit from young vines, poor quality barrels foisted upon naïve producers by devious suppliers and sheer technical inex...

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