Sure, I also do love a crisp unwooded white on a hot summers day, but the right levels of oak with some added weight in the mouthfeel just elevates the wine experience for me.

I have a tremendous appreciation for the wooded chardonnays of the Hemel en Aarde Valley. Having grown up in Stellenbosch, I was introduced to hot climate wines from early on in my life. Discovering the distinctive minerality and complexity of cooler climate wines, especially Chardonnay, has been eye-opening. Bouchard Finlayson’s Crocodile’s Lair Chardonnay is made from a vineyard in Elandskloof, 700m above sea level and 80km from Hermanus - a steep cool area tucked away behind Villiersdorp - known for exceptional vineyards and fruit orchards. Most of this specific non-irrigated 10 hectare vineyard’s Chardonnay grapes are allocated to Bouchard Finlayson’s Crocodile’s Lair, so it is fair to expect something special from the wine.

Crocodile's Lair

The Crocodile’s Lair Chardonnay delivers big on texture, with a voluminous and dense mouthfeel, authoritative acidity and very well balanced oak. To me, this is everything I want in a wooded Chardonnay. Complex, not overpowering, with a lingering presence that makes you want to talk about the wine as you drink it.

In my house, wine cannot be enjoyed alone without the presence of something to eat, so I’ve compiled some of my favourite pairing suggestions: The wine can easily stand up to punchy flavours like exotic curries and chutneys (sweet, sour and spicy), but also pairs really well with creamy textures like avocado, mayonnaise, creamy sauces and rich buttery seafood dishes. A great starter partner would be a retro avocado & shrimp cocktail, with a classic Marie Rose dressing (I love adding a dash of brandy and a few drops of Tobasco to my dressing). Another great pairing would be an Asian-inspired miso-glazed fillet of trout with a herbaceous salad and a punchy citrus dressing, or even boneless chicken thigh espetadas with the same glaze. I can also imagine that fire grilled lobster tails with a garlic, saffron and lemon butter sauce will be enthralling with this wine, but I’m sure that a pan of more accessible prawns with the same kind of sauce will also do the trick, replacing the saffron with a touch of smoked paprika.

Curry powder

For a cheese pairing (as an anytime snack or as an after-dinner course), I’d go with a cow’s milk and goat’s milk blended cheese like Fairview’s Roydon, an ultra creamy big brie that delivers hugely on silky textures and just the right kind of goaty acidity. Complex and not overpowering, just like the wine. You can also try a semi-hard cheese with a mild, nutty aroma, like Dalewood’s Boland™ - a natural rind Jersey milk cheese with a beautiful velvet texture that really complements the mouthfeel of the Crododile’s Lair Chardonnay. Be sure to serve the cheese at room temperature, and the wine chilled.

by Ilse van der Merwe, The Food Fox