Julien Schaal Wines – Western Cape, South Africa
Julien and Sophie Schaal have embarked on an exciting venture in South Africa focusing on the production of handcrafted, small production, cool-climate chardonnays. The Schaals are part of the energetic new wave of producers in South Africa, who make this one of the most dynamic wine producing areas in the world right now. The Schaals are also involved in producing fine wines in Alsace from grand cru vineyards though their joint venture with Jean Biecher called Biecher-Schaal.
Julien Schaal’s first vintage was in 2005 starting with chardonnay and syrah. There are two wines currently available (Mountain Vineyards and the single-vineyard Evidence). The aim with these wines is to reflect terroir as much as the qualities of the grape variety itself. Julien has a clear view of how he wants to make the wines; hand harvesting, slow whole bunch fermentations, natural settling, and gentle pre-bottling treatments mean that the essence of the vineyard finds its way into the bottle. Julien sees his approach as ‘simple and unhurried winemaking’.
As Julien says, ‘What can be better than making wine twice a year with riesling in October and chardonnay in February?’
The wines come from three separate areas of the Western Cape region:
Elgin is the Cape’s coolest viticultural area and has a unique climate and topography, consisting of an upland basin plateau, surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides. This region shows climatic similarities to Walker Bay, and is only slightly cooler by comparison.
In the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, the soil is predominantly Malmesbury Shale (a duplex structure). The top layer consists of a mixture of clay (15-30%) and gravel (ironstone and granite particles) and the lower layer is clay shale, which secures a source of moisture. The valley is surrounded and sheltered by a mountain barrier, formed by Galpin Peak (810 meters) and the Tower of Babel (1200 meters), which traps the cloud cover and moisture brought in from the sea by the prevailing wind. The sea breezes work to keep vines cool thereby encouraging slow ripening and flavor-rich grapes.
The Walker Bay area’s climate is largely influenced by the nearby, cold Atlantic Ocean rendering it one of the coolest wine growing areas in the Cape. Summer conditions are consequently warm rather than hot, and winter conditions are mild and frost-free.
Zambuni Wines imports both the Mountain Vineyards and Evidence labels, which both deliver superb value for money tasting more minerally and fresh than most Californian chardonnay and mimicking the complexity of top quality white burgundy at a far better price. These are exciting wines that we are extremely happy to represent in Connecticut and beyond.
Mountain Vineyards Chardonnay 2015
93 points Decanter Magazine, 4.5 Stars Platter, 92+ points Stephen Tanzer
Evidence Single-Vineyard Chardonnay 2014
4.5 Stars Platter, 91 points Stephen Tanzer