Waterford Estate Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2020: A culmination of nature and artistry

By Jeremy Maarschalk

Tuesday - 14 November 2023

Our viticulturist, David van Schalkwyk fondly likens the thirty-five-year-old vines to his family. “It's like looking after my eight-year-old son Charl and my eighty-year-old father Charl. Patience is key!”

He goes on to say, “The vineyard is so willing like an eight-year-old but has the foundation and structure of an eighty-year-old. The vines need special treatment, you don’t want them to stress as the sap flow will decrease with any old dead wood. The amazing thing is it’s fighting spirit to survive and produce quality grapes.” - Viticulturist, David van Schalkwyk.

With the new release of the Waterford Estate Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2020 and Tim Atkin awarding it 94 points, this is a vintage you won’t want to miss out on.

At Waterford Estate, we embrace the harmonious collaboration between nature and artistry to create truly authentic fine wines. Our Chardonnay is a wine that embodies our profound sense of place, culture, and an unwavering dedication to excellence.

Chardonnay is widely regarded as the queen of all grapes, with its heritage firmly planted in the fine wine nation of France, its home Burgundy grew this cultivar’s acclaim to record heights.

Our Estate Single Vineyard Chardonnay is a labour of love, with the vineyards preferring to grow in the cooler climate of the Elgin region our warmer climate offers us a unique opportunity to craft a true Stellenbosch expression of this noble varietal.

Comparing the 2019 with the 2020 vintage

The 2020 vintage was slightly warmer than that of the 2019 vintage, leading to a richer, more honey melon-based Chardonnay than that of the 2019. While the 2019 vintage was still rich and complex the overall feel of the wine was more fresh, with the subtle citrus notes being more prominent.

While these vintages may differ the ethos in the cellar does not, the gentle use of oak and the search to express the terroir is a theme that will run throughout all of our vintages. As our Chardonnay ages, the wine develops a weightier feel to the palate, with the acidity dropping and the tertiary nutty notes becoming more prominent.

The 2020 vintage of our Estate Single Vineyard Chardonnay shows a golden hue and subtle green undertones denote the slightly warmer vintage of 2020. The nose follows the look of the wine, displaying a warm welcoming richness with a lemon-curd undertone that adds intrigue to the accompanying light toasty notes. The body of the wine is round and balanced, with a fresh acidity that brings tension into the wine, while the palate reveals honeydew melon and a rounded toasty oak character, all harmonised by a complex zesty minerality.

The Story

Growing Chardonnay in Stellenbosch is considered to be going against the grain with the warmer climate and red clay-based soils, as Chardonnay prefers to grow in a cooler climate such as the Elgin region. Our Estate Single Vineyard Chardonnay is a vine with heritage, being planted back in 1988 the vineyard is amongst the oldest Chardonnay vines in the country and as of 2023, the vines have been inducted into the Old Vine Project.

By welcoming nature onto our estate we are able to improve the strength and health of our vineyard, the implementation of cattle in our vineyard has seen a tremendous increase in the microbial life found in our soils. We are already seeing undeniable improvements in our vineyard due to our regenerative farming techniques, as this spring season of 2023 saw a thirty-centimeter growth in our new shoots in just one week. The old Chardonnay vines are looking healthy and happy with each passing day since we have implemented these techniques and are shining stars in our regenerative farming culture, further compelling us to continue these techniques.

To further aid in the biodiversity and health of not only our vineyard but the surrounding land we chose not to make use of herbicides and pesticides, opting rather to release natural predators to combat any pest infestation. By abstaining from these chemicals that kill everything in one's vineyard we are able to invite the natural biodiversity onto our land and into our soils. The microbial life is thriving in our vineyard and our soil health is evident in the strength at which our vineyard is growing, with these small creatures and microbes in our soil we are seeing an improved amount of nutrients available they break down matter and compost, thus aiding in the stronger growth in our vineyard.

The care for our land and vineyard is evident in all aspects of the Waterford Estate brand, and our viticultural team is forever looking for other means to improve the health and biodiversity of our estate.


The 2020 vintage saw the wine mature for 11 months exclusively in 100% French Oak Barrels, with 15% of the barrels being new. The grapes were gently pressed as whole bunches and underwent barrel fermentation, with regular bâtonnage for three months. In this vintage, we opted for minimal Malolactic fermentation, prioritising the preservation of freshness and the enhancement of the wine's texture in the already richer, warmer vintage of 2020. This decision has resulted in a wine that exhibits a richer and fuller complexity on the palate compared to previous vintages.

Vintage Review

The 2020 vintage saw a further drop in temperature as the rainfall returned to normal levels. The conditions in this vintage resemble those of 2014, with decent rainfall across the Winelands, allowing the vines to produce a healthy crop while cooler temperatures resulted in a long hang time for the grapes, leading to fully ripened phenolics and tannins. This vintage is known for its great structure and elegance, with the ability to age gracefully for many years.

Only by truly understanding one's vineyard and how the conditions of each vintage affect it will you be able to craft a wine worthy of fine wine status.


Tim Atkin SA Special Report - 94 Points

Winemag.co.za - 91 Points

With the release of the Waterford Estate Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2020, this wine offers a journey through nature and artistry, a tribute to the Helderberg Mountain's terroir, and an exceptional expression of the Chardonnay grape variety.

Don't miss out on this exquisite vintage.

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