Oupa Willem (Grandpa Willem) 2018 is the third red in Ian Naudé’s Old Vines Series. It differs from his other two Old Vines Series reds in that it is not a single varietal wine. Instead it is termed a Heritage Blend.
This Heritage Blend is supposed to recreate the South African tradition of the 50s and 60s (and a long time prior to that) of blending fruit from dry grown, old bush Cinsault vines with whatever else one had to hand. In this case Ian Naudé has decided to use the fruit from a block of old Cabernet Sauvignon vines.
So Oupa Willem 2018 is a Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon blend. I can honestly say I have never encountered one of them before! Ian tells me that he picks the fruit a little later than for his other varietals, so the final wine is a bit plump and therefore accessible young. Despite this, it still clocks in at a commendable booze-quotient of 12%.
Oupa Willem is also fermented with 40% whole bunches – that is grapes and stems together. This is a practise of which I strongly approve.
For those who do not remember, fermenting with whole bunches has particular effects on the final wine. It lightens the colour (who wants inky-purple wines anyway?); it decreases the tannin-level (probably good when old vines are harvested at low potential alcohol and therefore will have thick, tannin-packed skins); finally, the acid-level in the final wine is raised – this is almost invariably a good thing when grapes are grown in a warm climate.
OK, let us commence tasting!
Pale-to-medium garnet colour.
Light nose of red- and black-berry fruits. Some herbal character. No new oak evident. Medium alcohol.
Bright, fresh palate with good acidity, light tannic structure and plenty of fruit with a savoury, herbal edge. Again no new oak evident. Very good length and impressive complexity.
There, that is a technical, Wine and Spirit Educational Trust-style tasting note that you’d get good marks in one of their easier exams. It is also a dreary load of old bollocks that doesn’t really tell you anything you really care about in a wine you are deciding whether to drop your sponds on. Let us start again!
If I may anthropomorphise this wine for a second, Grandpa Willem is a jolly, charming, exciting sort of chap. He likes fruit. He likes fruit a lot. Indeed, as you walk into his presence, your sense of smell is whisked to paradise by the super ripe redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries and blackberries he has picked for you and let ready for you to pluck from his bowls and be totally moved by.
Enough anthropomorphising. The transition from red to black fruit is smooth and seamless – this is an artfully constructed blend. The combination of fruits into a deliciously winsome whole is not overpowering in character. It pleases, tickles, tempts – lovely, but not extreme, nor jammy or stewed.
The herbal aromas of Cinsault also blend seamlessly into the slight leafiness of the Cabernet which, together with the rich earthiness present on this nose, suggest the fruit was picked from the borders of an exquisitely-tended herbarium. The complexity in Oupa Willem is quite impressive.
The alcohol is definitely moderate, and there is no titting around with new oak, this is a wine of unparalleled fruit from singular soil – its qualities obvious to witness.
If the nose was more moderately fruity then the palate is a positive riot! The fruit is rampantly joyful in its gloriously ambrosial delightfulness. Oupa Willem should satisfy anyone’s desire to go to brambly bush at the end of summer to give it a thorough working over. This is just so… erm… desirable!
The acidity keeps Oupa Willem bright and fresh which, together with its svelte tannins, should keep it charged with vigour for a long life. Extra complexity comes from the herbal/leafy characteristics and a richly textured earthiness. All of the above last and last giving it a finish of enormous length that just leaves you lusting for your next mouthful.
Grandpa Willem – NO! This is far too young, beautiful and god-damn sexy to be a Grandpa. Perhaps his (legally-beyond) pubescent grandchild, well-stacked with the assets of youth, of whom he swells with enormous pride.
Buy from Handford.