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A tight, mineral wine with classic Hamilton Russell Vineyards length and complexity. Prominent pear and lime fruit aromas and flavours are brought beautifully into focus by a tight line of bright natural acid and a long, dry minerality. An elegant, yet textured and intense wine with a strong personality of both place and vintage.
Harvest was a touch earlier than usual, beginning in the first week of February. Budding was even and complete, helped by a fortuitous two days over 30 Centigrade in mid-September. The weather at flowering was benign, if a little wet. Ripening was a touch uneven. Overall the year was wetter than the previous few years (with a total annual rainfall of 849mm for calendar year 2019). A particularly wetter than average October and January created downy mildew pressures, which became odium and later botrytis pressures, not helped by high humidity and early morning dew. These were however satisfactorily held at bay with organic treatments. The average maximum temperatures for Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar were exactly equal to our long-term average of 25 Centigrade (the long-term equivalent for Burgundy for Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep is 24.8 Centigrade), so on our measure, the vintage was cooler than 2019 and equal to the celebrated 2009 and 2015 vintages. A standout feature of the 2020 vintage was phenolic ripeness at lower alcohol than usual, combined with low sugar to alcohol conversions for the fermentations. A highly positive situation. Yields were, as always, very low. Pinot noir came in at 3.32 tons/ha (21,5 hl/ha) and Chardonnay came in even lower at 2.68 tons/ha (16.9 hl/ha). The wines have a marked elegance, mineral purity and saline quality. A very exciting outcome despite weather challenges.
Rebels and pioneers, Hamilton Russell Vineyards were the first to grow vines in the cool, maritime region of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Tim Hamilton Russell planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on previously uncultivated land in 1976, both rare varieties for South Africa at the time. The site he chose behind the old fishing village of Hermanus allows for unusually classically styled wines, which have garnered the reputation as some of the ﬁnest in South Africa and the New World, to be produced near the tip of the African continent.
1994 saw Anthony Hamilton Russell take ownership of the Estate, and extensive soil research was initiated which identified 52 hectares of stony, clay-rich, shale soils as optimal for the individual, expressive style of wine desired. Today, the Estate has 20 parcels of Chardonnay vines, all vinified separately, before blending for consistency of aesthetic, but with the character of the vintage also present. The Pinot Noir plots give Burgundian subtlety, texture and length, which is down to the identification of the shale/gravel soils on which the vines now grow.
Amongst the vines, biodynamic practices are beginning to prevail; nitrogen fixing lupins and earthworm tea are used to restore vital microbes to the soil, with biodiversity islands being used to bring beneficial plants to the area. In the winery, Anthony and winemaker Emul Ross seek to make wines which demand something from the drinker, as fine literature does from the reader.
Serve with poultry terrines and simple seafood such as roast seabass and crayfish tails with lemon and coriander. Ready to drink now but will improve with age.
"If 2018 produced a super taut, reductive serious expression and 2019 showed a lusher, more forward, accessible opulence, then 2020 is perhaps a marriage of these two styles. This is a wine full of confidence and composure, brimming with taut white citrus pith, green pear and lime peel, bruised green apples, white blossom and a complexing saline oyster shell minerality. On the palate there is a feel of density, dry extract, concentration and a really precise harmonious balance with layers of green melon, sweet lime jelly, melted butter and a full glycerol finish with just the faintest hint of butterscotch, lime cordial and vanilla pod spice. Seemless and sleek, the layers just melt into each other leaving a sensation of utter completeness. What a truly fabulous wine, resplendent in its mellow classical restraint, intense concentration and harmonious length. A big high five for Emul Ross!!"
95 Greg Sherwood MW, 9 April 2021
"The 2020 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay is lip-smackingly fine. Aged for nine months in French oak, it’s resolutely Burgundian in style — though far from an imitation — with citrus, ripe white stone fruit, butter and even a hint of oyster shell on the nose. It’s beautifully textured, elegant and stylish and is a wine to tuck away and savour."
Jonathan Ray, The Spectator
"Taut and citric in its youth, it opens up after a few years to glorious complexity. Lazy writers always reach for comparisons in Burgundy. And I’m not going to stop this fine tradition – it’s Puligny Montrachet, minus the price tag."
James Lawrence, UK, March 2021
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