In Hermanus, near the Southern-most point of South Africa, the lure of the Atlantic has mesmerised fishermen, travelers and vintners and Chardonnay-enthusiasts, alike.
The sight of the mountains rising from the foam of the sea forms part of the marvel of Walker Bay. One of the Cape’s coolest wine-growing regions, this region receives the cloud cover and moisture from the nearby Atlantic Ocean and entraps it within a mountain barrier, framed by the 810m tall Galpin Peak and 1,200m tall Tower of Babel.

One Spring morning in 2018, I traversed past Bouchard Finlyason winemaker, Chris Albrecht’s home on the property. Chris and I marched up the mountain, in the footsteps of botanist, Frank Woodvine on a Nature Walk amongst the fynbos.

Acclaimed for its status as a WWF Conservation Champion, Bouchard Finlayson plays host to only 25 hectares under vine and 100 hectares of protected fynbos. Frank and Chris considered the fauna and flora. I, however, was romanced by the Atlantic ocean, the cold wind that rolled in and the Chardonnay that met us at the end of our Nature Walk.

Protected fynbos

The call of this cold wind is central to a significant story in South Africa’s wine history.
Internationally regarded for their hospitality, prowess, the Tollman family purchased Bouchard Finlayson in 2000. The acquisition was made with the proviso that Peter would remain at the helm of the Bouchard Finlayson ship.

South Africa plays host to 90,512 hectares of wine producing grapes under vine. Roughly 800 kilometers in length. White varieties constitute over 53% of plantings. According to SAWIS Status of White Varieties as at 31 December 2021, Chardonnay is the fourth-most planted white variety in South Africa.

At Bouchard Finlayson, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir remain rooted to the Burgundian philosophies that align with the property’s climate and history. Likewise, Sauvignon Blanc has found favour in the cool region.

Bouchard Finlayson’s winemaker, Chris Albrecht joined Bouchard Finlayson as an assistant winemaker in 2010 and was promoted to winemaker in 2017.

An Oenology and Viticulture graduate of the University of Stellenbosch, Chris has worked in harvests in California, France, South Africa and New Zealand. Chris Albrecht, described the 2017 Bouchard Finlayson Sans Barrique Chardonnay as ‘a shellfish delight’.

Bouchard Finlayson’s winemaker, Chris Albrecht

This unwooded white wine is honed from handpicked Chardonnay grapes from unirrigated vineyards located in the Elandskloof Vineyards, described by Chris as ‘spectacular’, roughly 80-kilometers inland from Bouchard Finlayson. A rich, golden colour, the 2020 Bouchard Finlayson Sans Barrique Chardonnay is intense, with notes of citrus on the nose and exuberant freshness. Chris says that this lemony texture is an ideal pairing partner for sushi.

Bouchard Finlayson is also lauded for Crocodile’s Lair/’Kaaimansgat’ Chardonnay.

Bouchard Finlayson is also lauded for Crocodile’s Lair/’Kaaimansgat’ Chardonnay.

Grapes for this wine are grown in an Elandskloof vineyard, roughly 700m above sea-level, a mere 80km from Bouchard Finlayson. Chris says that this wine is a result of a 30-year-long partnership. The 2020 vintage follows a lineage of wines that are lauded for their minerality. Oak-matured, this sagaciously-structured wine rings with classic-citrus linearity and exquisite spice. Chris suggests: “pair it with a boiled oyster-tail and a lemon-aioli.”

Written by: Tšepang Molisana