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2012 Hamilton Russell - Chardonnay Walker Bay

Wine Spectator 93
Wine Advocate 93
Steven Tanzer 93
Varietal Chardonnay
Category Whites
Country South Africa
Producer Hamilton Russell

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2012 Hamilton Russell - Chardonnay Walker Bay



#19 Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2013!

Wine Spectator  

Tightly wound, this exhibits a serious core of glazed pear, fig, apple, plantain and brioche notes, lined with mineral and honeysuckle hints and accented by nicely beaded acidity. This should be a beauty when it unwinds fully. Best from 2014 through 2020. James Molesworth

Wine Advocate  

The 2012 Chardonnay was barrel-fermented for 9 months in small French oak barrels. It has been made the same was as the previous 30 vintages of Chardonnay, although it now benefits from 4% aging in amphora that were introduced in 2005. “Our 2011 Chardonnay was the first to have a small – and frankly irrelevant – amphorae-fermented and aged Chardonnay component of 1% and the 2012 had around 4%. Our oldest Chardonnay blocks yield less than 1.5 tons per hectare and often don’t ripen much above 12% alcohol. These small parcels can be overwhelmed by new oak and lack a little freshness if fermented and aged in old oak. Our amphorae are made of stoneware and were designed to have an air-exchange equivalent to a barrel (not far more as is mostly the case with terracotta amphorae). In the amphorae we get a wine that is fat, fresh and complex at low alcohol. We are planning to slowly acquire enough to ferment and age up to 10% of our Chardonnay this way.” The nose is more reticent than its peers, but shows great class with subtle scents of pineapple, smoke and orange zest. The palate has a lovely citric edge that is reminiscent of a fine Chassagne-Montrachet. It is imbued with wonderful poise and a gradual build in the mouth toward a poised, zesty marmalade-tinged finish that lingers long in the mouth. Excellent! Drink now-2019. 

Hamilton Russell is one of South Africa’s premier estates and both their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have enjoyed a loyal following for good reason: these can be superb exemplars of their respective variety. While I would not claim that the wines are consistent from year to year, that is merely the corollary of a wine that reflects the vagaries of each vintage. I tasted the two more recent releases but readers should also peruse my notes on their Ashbourne and Southern Right labels. “For us in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (wine ward) 2012 was an easy year,” explained Anthony Hamilton Russell from deepest Gigondas in France. “Good flowering, low disease risk and a warm and dry January. Overall the vintage was cooler than 2011, equal to 2009 and almost exactly equal to our long term average in terms of maximum temperatures. Our only challenges were logistical, with the Chardonnay coming in fast and furious and a little more than expected. The wines were lusher and more opulent than 2010 and 2011. We think highly of the vintage.” Neal Martin

International Wine Cellar  

Good full yellow.  Wonderfully complex aromas of pear, wild herbs, sweet butter, smoke and tropical fruits; showed an iodiney minerality with air.  Concentrated and harmonious but firm-edged, with brisk lemony acidity framing the very youthful flavors of stone fruits and minerals.  Conveys a powerful impression of intensity without weight, like the best white Burgundies.  Very young but smooth on the long, peach aftertaste.  Outstanding potential here for a chardonnay that is often South Africa's best. Stephen Tanzer

All sizes are 750mL unless otherwise noted.
Vintages and ratings subject to change at any time.
All pricing and availability subject to change.