History of Chardonnay

There are few varietals as prevalent around the world as Chardonnay. It features front-and-center as much in the Old World (especially in France) as it does in the New World (including the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and, of course, South Africa). This grape variety translates growing conditions extremely well. Cool climate examples show an abundance of fruit like apple, melon, pineapple and hints of citrus. Warmer climates have more nuanced fruit but express butterscotch, honey, and nut flavours.

Genetically, Chardonnay is the result of crossings between Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Gouias Blanc. The origins are uncertain but likely due to Roman plantings of Gouias Blanc in areas where Pinot Noir was also found, resulting in natural cross-pollination.

The origins of Chardonnay in South Africa are like something out of a spy novel. A covert and coordinated effort between Danie de Wet, Jan ‘Boland’ Coetzee and journalist Fritz Joubert saw illicit cuttings (made by Jan, from vines at Clos des Mouches) snuck across borders and back into South Africa, defying import controls on vine stock that were in place at the time. From there, the material was propagated to plant onto rootstocks, and the cultivar was established on home soil.

At Oldenburg Vineyards, our first Chardonnay block was planted in 2006. In 2024, we will have eight blocks in total. Our neighbours, Thelema, were the first producers in the Banghoek to plant Chardonnay, and since then the area has shown the incredible potential this varietal has in our valley – with Banghoek producers excelling in the latest Platter Guide, raking in a number of 5-star ratings, and positioning the ward as the strongest area for top Stellenbosch Chardonnay.

At present, Chardonnay is the most planted white varietal on Oldenburg, with vines producing top quality grapes, that are made into award-winning wines.

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