Introducing LOST BOY Chardonnay

I’ve gotta start this with ‘this is not a new wine release‘. Not yet at least ?

Have y’all heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”? I actually just googled it to get a little background before I used it in this story. It’s a fitting sentiment to this Chardonnay and really my entire winemaking career here in SA… And as it just so happens this saying is actually an African proverb.

I think the saying is fairly self-explanatory and both myself and my wines are the child in this analogy. The entire SA wine community is the village.

Not long after the 2020 harvest, I was contacted by the owner of RX South Africa, the South African importer of some of the finest French Oak in the world, telling me he wanted to sponsor a barrel for my next vintage. He had been following my story, loves mountain biking, loves the commitment to wildlife conservation, and wanted to lend his support to the LOST BOY mission I’ve set out on.

Now I can understand how oak may not seem that exciting but to a winemaker, especially at this stage in my new venture, a new barrel was similar to being offered a Ferarri. Better actually – Ferarri’s add very harsh tannin to wines I hear (wine humor).

The other challenge here though, as everyone who knows my wines is likely thinking right now, the style of wines I make don’t really work with new oak. But RX SA wasn’t just trying to give me something and hoped I’d tag them on social media… They wanted to help me make a stellar wine – so they made the 3 hour drive out to the winery and we made a plan.

Red wines? Not really an option. As you likely know by now – all of my reds are in that light, elegant, Beaujolais style. New oak isn’t a component that would help me make these wines better.

On the white side, my I don’t make enough Fumé Blanc where an entire new oak barrel would improve the wine without completely changing it. So our only option was to try something new.

Without question, my absolute least favorite wine is a wooded California Chard. High alcohol, big, thick, buttery – not my thing at all. Most of these wines I had tried were so bad, I had really written the entire cultivar off. Until I got to South Africa…

Wine here has a funny way of breaking all preconceptions you come here with about your favorite and least favorite cultivars. It did this with Sauvignon Blanc for me, which is now one of my favorite cultivars. It also did this with Chardonnay.

It’s rare to find an unwooded Chard in the states. The style that sells is MASSIVE wood. Here, however, the majority of the Chardonnay’s I had stumbled across were unwooded and beautiful. Honestly, I think it’s the first time I’ve really tasted Chardonnay and not some creamy/oaky monstrosity made from Chardonnay.

Next I started trying wooded Chardonnay’s here. And to my surprise, they still tasted like Chardonnay. Crisp, elegant, filled with fruit and life – it was something completely different than what I was used to.

This curiosity with Chard had been on my mind since my first harvest here in 2019. So I mentioned it to RX SA and they loved the idea. We discussed everything from where I’d be getting the fruit, what style I wanted to create, and what I was looking for from a barrel. They prescribed the Tonnellerie De Mercurey Evolution, Pierre CLL+.

Now the other piece of the puzzle was finding the best Chardonnay vineyards to get my grapes. I started asking around and one winemaker would lead me to another and eventually I arrived at the perfect block.

Situated just outside of Franschoek between big mtb-trail-covered mountains, this small block of 36-year-old vines usually isn’t for sale. The owner of the farm uses them entirely for his own Chard and sells grapes from his younger blocks.

However, due to the referrals that led me to him, he insisted I get my grapes from his prized Chard vineyard.

So in February I loaded up my bakkie and a trailer full of grapes and headed back to Gansbaai to make the very first LOST BOY Chardonnay in 100% new French Oak.

I pressed 100% whole bunch with a basket press into a tank to settle. The next day I racked the juice off, taking about 40% of the rough lees with, into the Mercurey. Wild fermentation began 48 hours later and lasted for 14 days.

The result was wildly expressive, vibrant, and tropical Chardonnay with notes of banana, citrus, and white pear.

Layers of complexity from the wild yeast and rough lees have set the stage for a beautiful integration to come with the new oak.

In barrel now for nearly 6 months with weekly bâtonnage, the wine changes daily. Currently, the wood is starting to integrate perfectly. Tannin and structure have increased tremendously since ferment and are now in the process of becoming softer and more rounded.

The reason for the CLL+ barrel was to make the style of wooded Chardonnay I’ve fallen in love with here in SA – with freshness, vibrancy, and a massive focus on the fruit vs oak. Right now, we are well on our way to that style of wine. And I am so thankful to everyone who has had a hand in this wine.

Currently I have no timeline on the release of this wine. Ideally I’d like for it to go to bottle in early 2022 with a potential release date of Summer 2022. Being my biggest, boldest white though – time is crucial and it can’t be rushed. The real timeline is up to the wine.

The last single-barrel project I did (Carbonic Cinsaut) sold out in just 3 months. So as soon as I am a bit more clear on when this wine will be available, you will be able to reserve yours on my webstore. Links will be shared as we get closer.

Cheers everyone ?