Jan van Rooyen, the new winemaker at Avontuur Winery, South Africa (2011 being his first full vintage at Avontuur) is no stranger when it comes to making delicious Chardonnay. As a seasoned vintner with many years experience, Jan plans to make the 2011 Chardonnay at Avontuur a memorable one.

Jan accentuated the fact that he wants to make a wooded Chardonnay this year that is for the Chardonnay lover. In other words, a wine with elegance, power and poise. However, this wine should be fully integrated with the wood without obscuring any of the minerality or the fine balance between the apricot, citrus and coconut components.

Different Chardonnay clones from vines as old as 12 years were being harvested on the day of this interview, at 24.5°Brix. The yield per hectare was estimated at 3 to 4 tons and the juice yield at 650 L per ton. Novoclair Speed (for settling), gelatin and kieselsol are added at the crusher after which the grapes are left to cold settle at 12°C for 24 to 48 hours. Fermicru LVCB (Oenobrands) was selected as the yeast strain, due to its ability to produce a wine with balanced fruit and minerality. After the yeast is added at 15°C, fermentation typically lasts for 3 weeks at a temperature of 18 to 20°C. Jan believes that a clean and steady fermentation is best achieved at this temperature. Nutrient additions are added in the form of Anchorferm (Oenobrands) or Bioferm (Bio Springer) and later liquid ammonia is added to get the YAN up to 300mg/L.

Proper wood integration with the developing Chardonnay is monitored with great vigilance. The wine is kept on the gross lees in the barrel for 12 months, with lees stirring initiated after fermentation is complete. Batonnage is only done for the first 3 to 6 months (depending on how Jan feels the wine is developing) of barrel ageing. Jan is adamant that the wine should rest peacefully after the vigour of harvest and therefore batonnage happens only once or twice a month. All barrels are tasted according to Jan’s schedule and should a reductive barrel be detected (I did mention that Jan is very meticulous), heavy lees stirring is done on the barrel and if possible, the old lees is substituted with fresh lees. An even spread of first, second and third French barrels are used.

After the oxidative stability of the wine has been ensured (typically after 12 months in barrel), it is ready for bottling. Jan describes this process by using an exquisite metaphor; he simply sees the wine leaving the barrel as a rebirth and then the wine waiting in the tank before bottling as a gentle awakening.

Bernard Mocke is a technical consultant for Anchor Wine Yeast.