Paul Clüver Seven Flags Chardonnay Leads South African Charge at International Wine Challenge

Pioneering Elgin producer Paul Clüver Family Wines underscored its reputation as one of South Africa’s leading Chardonnay producers by securing a gold medal with a 97pt rating at the prestigious International Wine Challenge (IWC) in London for its icon Paul Clüver Seven Flags Chardonnay 2021.

Only 15 South African wines managed to garner a gold medal at this major wine event that annually attracts entries from wine-producing regions around the world, with Paul Clüver’s Seven Flags Chardonnay obtaining the highest score from all the Cape wines entered. The renowned Elgin winery this year also won an IWC gold for its Paul Clüver Noble Late Harvest Riesling 2021. 

The IWC 2023 accolade for Paul Clüver’s Seven Flags Chardonnay continues the wine’s run of successes on the international stage, with the 2020 vintage of this flagship wine accorded a Platinum Award at last year’s Decanter World Wine Awards.

Andries Burger, Paul Clüver Wines cellarmaster, says the recognition for the winery’s Seven Flags Chardonnay 2021 at the IWC underscores the winery’s commitment to this Burgundian variety since pioneering Chardonnay in the cool-climate Elgin region in 1987. 

“The result of this earlier work done by Dr Paul Clüver in establishing Chardonnay on our Elgin farm is that the cellar team has access to a broad spectrum of vines varying in age between five and 35 years,” says Burger. “Planted to Bokkeveld Shale soils with cool, water-retaining clay beds at between 280m and 350m above sea-level, our Chardonnay is a visceral expression of the unique Elgin geography. Being the basis of the making of any fine wine, the spectacular terroir allows Paul Clüver to present an individual offering to the South African Chardonnay palette.

“That the Paul Clüver Seven Flags Chardonnay, our flagship Chardonnay offering, is one of distinction and quality has been underscored by this year’s showing at the IWC. These accolades are a true honour, coming at a time when South Africa is stepping to the fore as one of the world’s leading Chardonnay producers. As an IWC entrant, Paul Clüver found ourselves in the company of brilliant wines from around the world. To rise to the top in this sector is very special and I accept this honour on behalf of our teams in the cellar and the vineyards, as well as the Clüver family who played such a vital role in getting Elgin onto the global wine map.”

Grapes for the Paul Clüver Seven Flags are selected from the oldest Chardonnay vineyards on the Estate and in the Elgin Valley, planted in 1987. The fruit was whole-bunch pressed, settled without any settling agents and transferred to barrel for fermentation which was a 100% non-inoculated fermentation in a selection of French oak barrels. (36% new, the rest 2nd and 3rd fill.) Lees stirring was kept to a minimum and the wine remained on the lees for a total of nine months without any sulphur addition. 

Burger says that the Paul Clüver Seven Flags Chardonnay 2021 is classic Elgin terroir expression. “Although bone-dry with a residual sugar of 2,5/l, the wine has enticing fruit notes which latch onto the lean minerality of a bright, fresh and life-affirming Chardonnay with the regal statuesque structure Seven Flags is known for,” he says. “Site-specific fruit such as Elgin Chardonnay does not allow the winemaker to have a profound influence on style. Style is driven by terroir, which is immortal and has the final say.”