Chamonix Estate in Franschhoek finds itself on top of the wine world after being named the Top Scoring Wine at this year’s Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards for its Chamonix Chardonnay 2018.

This wine not only won the Grand Prix Trophy for Top Scoring Wine, but also the Chardonnay Trophy for achieving the highest score from the 109 Chardonnays entered into this leading wine competition. With over 1 500 entries, Michelangelo continues to be South Africa’s largest and most comprehensive wine show.

More about Chamonix Estate

Stefan van Rooyen, CEO of Chamonix Estate, says winning this award is one of the highlights in the history of Chamonix. The estate’s status as a leading wine producer was driven by the vision of its late owner Chris Hellinger, who bought the farm in 1991. “This Michelangelo accolade is the first major award Chamonix has won since Hellinger passed away in 2018. Ironically, this winning Chardonnay was made from his last vintage on the farm,” says Van Rooyen.

From left is Stefan van Rooyen, CEO of Chamonix, and winemaker, Neil Bruwer.

“We are extremely proud to accept the trophies for the Top Scoring Wine and Best Chardonnay from the Michelangelo Awards on Hellinger’s behalf. It was his vision to make great wine, especially Chardonnay, on this special piece of mountain farmland that he turned into a wine estate. Chamonix would not be making wine of this quality, nor getting this kind of recognition, if it were not for his foresight.”

According to Neil Bruwer, Chamonix’s cellarmaster, both Michelangelo awards came as a huge surprise over which he and his team are unashamedly overjoyed.

“With the number of top-quality entries the Michelangelo Awards attract each year, one enters to see how your wines compare to those of your peers. If a gold or perhaps a platinum award comes your way, you consider it a job well done,” he says.

“However, to be named the top Chardonnay out of over 100 entries at a time when South Africa is making such brilliant wines from this grape is the kind of accolade one can only dream of. With regard to being judged the Michelangelo Awards’ overall Top Scoring Wine, it still has to sink in.

“But what I can say is that this award as top-scorer is terrific for South African Chardonnay. The achievement underscores the belief of many winemakers – including myself – that the Cape makes some of the best Chardonnays in the world.

“The adage goes that, due to the reputation of this Burgundian cultivar, a country making good Chardonnay must be a great wine nation. We hope the top score for Chardonnay at the Michelangelo Awards goes some way to validate South Africa’s reputation,” Bruwer adds.

More about the winning wine

Grapes for the Chamonix Chardonnay are selected from vineyards situated at between 380m and 400m above sea level. The vineyards grow in sandy loam soil that is threaded with clay and lime. For optimum expression and general intensity of Chardonnay character, vineyard planting is quite dense at between 4 500 and 5 000 vines per hectare, ensuring the vines compete for sustenance and thus bear fruit of concentrated and distinctive profile.

“No white variety shows soil, aspect and climate such as Chardonnay,” says Bruwer. “So, in the cellar we watch over the wine with eagle eyes to ensure that the natural processes run smoothly. The grapes are soft-crushed and must be fermented in French oak for between 15 and 25 days, depending on how the grapes look. The wine then spends twelve months in barrels, some 20% of which are new, with regular lees stirring.”

Bruwer says he and the Chamonix team are celebrating these accolades with a few bottles of Chardonnay, but they will have to take it easy. “Wine awards play a major role in attracting interest from the consumer, and we will ensure there is enough of the Top Scoring Wine for the market,” he says. – Press release, Michelangelo International Awards