Wines of …..

As Ian Naude was wrapping up his Zoom tasting yesterday evening, he exclaimed; ‘I wish I could make a wine with just the vineyard name on the bottle and no mention of Naudé.’

Ian Naudé presenting his new releases

Whether or not the four wines below do represent their terroir, Ian’s hand has been instrumental in guiding them to their distinction and exceptional quality. ‘Guiding’ by knowing what not to do rather than do, for he does very little. In summary, his wines have structure, balance and freshness; tasting these four youngsters, one can’t help but have confidence that waiting for maturity will be more than worthwhile.

Old Vine Langpad Colombard 2021

There’s a growing fascination with this variety, admittedly among a small number of winemakers. Traditionally a distilling grape responsible with chenin for South Africa’s highly-regarded brandies, now these adventurers want to show colombard can also shine as a table wine. Or, as Ian puts it; ‘What I want to make is something new and interesting but also old.’

On a trip to Vredendal, he asked around for ‘what’s exciting that no one has yet found?’ The answer to his question led him to the colombard vineyard planted in 1983 on 100% sand about 35kms from the coast. It received the traditional flood irrigation of the area and no doubt also bore the typical huge yields. Now many bunches are dropped.

Langpad (long road and true of the 400 odd kilometres from Vredendal to Stellenbosch – I think that’s how Ian explained the name and by which many  ask for the wine rather than colombard.) is whole bunch pressed, naturally fermented and, most important, left as long as possible on the lees; the end result is startlingly good. There’s a wildness of flavour I associate with colombard accentuated by its natural, vivid acidity. But it’s the lees richness that brings it to life, adding class and quality at only 11.5% alcohol. It begs: age me, I’ll surprise you in ten years and many more.  Ian says it’s his South African answer to assyrtiko, his wish is that in ten years’ time colombard will be as highly regarded as chenin and in as many different styles.

On a vote, Langpad was the favourite wine of the evening for most of the roughly 32 attendees.

Langpad colombard vineyard

Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2020

From a single vineyard in Agter-Paardeberg planted in 1971, Ian wanted to create a chenin with lightness and minerality; ‘I find many Swartland chenins too heavy with too much oak.’ This is one achievement but it also has old vine concentration and the area’s sunny tones. Similar vinification to Langpad, lengthy lees ageing a pivotal action, here with batonage ‘to extract all the flavour’. Another deserving of time, delicious as it is now.

Old Vine Chenin

Old Vine Cinsault 2016

Ian recalls he was fortunate to find this beautiful old vine cinsault vineyard, planted in 1978, on a farm just outside Darling. He has firm ideas about what a ‘proper South African cinsault’ (his words) should taste like: Turkish Delight and rose petals. Whether it’s auto-suggestion or a feature of the vineyard, I do find both in this wine. Ian reckons they are just starting to develop as the cinsault reaches its fifth year.

Vinification depends on vintage, the challenge being to balance whole bunch and destemmed grapes with addition of stalks. ‘One has to understand the area, vineyard and story; the job of the winemaker is to respect the wine farmer and the workers with honest winemaking.’ As with the other wines, fermentation is spontaneous, soft pump overs occur once or twice daily with a further two weeks on the skins, before the wine is pressed off into older French oak barriques, where it stays for 12 – 15 months.

The sensation of light texture and freshness is augmented by the relatively low 12% alcohol, but also aided by lack of heavy extraction, something not in Ian’s makeup. There’s intensity and richness of flavour a plenty, including a dash of spice to add to Ian’s exotica, all lingering long after the last sip. My friend and celebrated lady old-vine whisperer, Rosa Kruger, is quoted as saying ‘I think this is the best cinsault I have tasted.’ I’m not sure I wouldn’t agree with her.

Usefully, Ian suggests don’t serve this too warm, advising to serve around 15C, it’ll continue open up as it warms.  Oh, and hope to be around in 20 years’ time as it’s sure to age that long. Sadly, 2021 is the last year Ian will make this particular Old Vine cinsault; ‘After eight years (I hope I’m right-AL) it’s time for a change,’ Ian reckons.

Darling Old Vine Cinsault

Grenache 2019

Ian’s objective with fruit from this Agter-Paardeberg vineyard ‘is to create a lighter, classic style, more typical of what you’d expect in an old world Grenache.’

He’s had only two tries so far, the first in 2014 and now 2019; during the four year gap he wasn’t able to secure the fruit. Interestingly, he shares the block with six other winemakers. ‘I’m the first to harvest, it’s another 10 days before the next person picks.’  As with the cinsault, the grapes are chilled overnight to 10C and undergo a similar vinification.

Someone made the point that wine colour does not relate to taste. That’s true of this Grenache; its pale, limpid ruby contrasted by the concentration of juicy red fruits with their racy acidity and firm tug of tannin.

Think 2029 for a grand, grown up grenache.

Natural freshness, concentration of fruit and acidity and always totally dry, these wines are of a family. It was a great pleasure to experience them and learn more of Ian’s philosophy.

When I thought of a title for this piece, I couldn’t get further than Wines of, without a third-word cliché. Now it strikes me that imagination would fit the bill. Imagining the style the vineyard would naturally produce and having the imagination to let that happen in the cellar. Ian does both.

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