Chamonix Reserve White 2012 Franschhoek


From 150 rand, £14.25, €22.95

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Eat your heart out, Pessac-Léognan. I tasted this wine blind while researching my article Oaked Sauvignons – what works? and would not have been remotely surprised if it had turned out to be a wine of the calibre and appeal of a Ch Smith Haut Lafitte or Pape Clément, average price approx £50 and £80 a bottle respectively. Yet you can pick up this sumptuous South African white for £14.25 from Stone, Vine & Sun in the UK (and from several other UK retailers) or for the rand-equivalent of just over £8 in Cape Town. It’s also available in the Netherlands, according to, who list no current US stockist but Chamonix's own website lists as US importer Knauth & Visser of Branford, CT. I would love this wine to be available to American wine lovers so that they could see what stunning value is available from the Cape's beautiful winelands. (Richard's wine of the week last week is another example.)

If you were planning a trip to South African wine country, Franschhoek would be a natural stop on your itinerary – see Franschhoek – where swallows make their own wine. It’s a small, very pretty town founded by French Huguenots that is focused on wine and tourism with some excellent hotels and restaurants but not that many wineries. Boekenhoutskloof is one of the best-known and Chamonix is one of the most consistent of South Africa's many wine producers.

The modest winemaker Gottfried Mocke turns out a succession of stunning reds and, particularly, whites. His Chardonnays are also excellent, and underpriced, but this blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc with 40% Sémillon is arguably more distinctive.

Franschhoek and Sémillon is a great combination, as Boekenhoutskloof's varietal Sémillon has long shown. At Chamonix the must is cold-macerated on the skins for up to 24 hours before being fermented in French oak barrels, about half of them new  – but there is no heavy-handed oak influence in the wine. The wine is then aged on lees for 11 months. As you can see, it looks smart.

The 2012 is a little richer than the 2013 and is over 14% alcohol but certainly isn't heavy and has a beautiful smooth texture. There is none of the oily oakiness that can mark some of the less accomplished white Pessac-Léognans. This Chamonix white blend would make a great first-course wine for a grand feast – and is probably too substantial to be drunk as an aperitif. Pure class – and value. For what it's worth, I gave the wine a score of 17.5 and reckon it should continue to provide great drinking over the next five or six years. I note that Chamonix's own website, from which this beautiful image is taken, suggests that the wine reaches its peak at five years old. Chamonix has tourist accommodation, a game farm, hosts weddings and all that caboodle.

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