Ian Naude Old Vines Chenin Blanc left me dazed and stunned

Ian Naude Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2015 raises the bar of the quality expected from this varietal above the already towering level set by other South African Chenin Blancs. Quite simply, it is brilliant.

Ian Naude’s Old Vine Series has already left me stunned with the three red wines (Cinsault, Grenache and Oupa Willem) I have tried. One sniff of the Old Vines Chenin Blanc showed me his mastery of white varietals was as great as that of red grapes.

I say ‘his mastery’, but Ian is very clear that his role is not one of mastery. Rather he seeks to allow the quality of the old vines and the environment they are grown in, Mother Nature as he puts it, to come through unscathed and be allowed to speak after the winemaking process.

He sees himself more as a midwife, guiding the products of nature from gestation on the vine to adult expression in the form of wine. My experience shows he does that with consummate skill. Therefore I hope no one, Ian included, will mind if I call him a master of his art!

One thing, I may talk about power and density a lot in this review, but please always remember that Ian Naude’s wines are always sculpted little models of beauty. Here I am tasting a wine made from seriously old vines, but there is never any excess or extremity.

Indeed, this Old Vines Chenin Blanc may be driven by the force of old vines, but it is a callipygian delight at only 12.5%. His wines are not heavy, booze-laden monsters – you could drink them all day. Keep this in mind as you read the review below.

Let us commence!

Ian Naude Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2015Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2015, Ian Naude

I am amazed by the sheer depth and complexity of fruit aromas on this nose. There is a wonderful, tightly interwoven melange of apple, lemon, pear and quince. This nose is so complex it is shows a hint of red fruit – I smell a distinct aroma of raspberries here.

This is suffused by rock/mineral aromas, rose quartz freshly chipped out of granite. These rocks are not dirty old lumps discarded on some building site. No! They are high up on a Scottish mountain where the air is so clean you wish you could bottle it and there is no filth or moss present to sully your vertiginous geological endeavours.

These complex aromas, that meld together so beautifully, are fortified by the power and density that only old vines can bring to a wine.

Moreover, this is not just the depth of flavour given by old vines. Those vines have been tended so they produce low yields – there has not been an attempt to force them to give yields higher than they would naturally be comfortable producing. The Ian Naude Old Vines Chenin Blanc is undoubtedly the product of mother nature’s caring hand acting upon remarkable old plants.

Where I think the masterful hand of the winemaker – the viticulteur – shows is in a quality I suggested in the introduction. Despite the complex, dizzying array of fruits, the stone freshly chipped in the purity of mountain air and the old vine drive behind these characteristics, there is never any excess of anything.

Alcohol is moderate. It has a great depth of fruit but is no over-ripe fruit-bomb. That chipped stoniness is not so heavily pounded from its mountaintop that it becomes dirty. Everything is lightly and gently parred down so it has precisely what it needs, where it needs it, and no more.

The palate is a similar model of beautifully restrained tension. It is quite dry, not hiding its faults with sweetness as one often imagines is happening in Savennières. Indeed, apart from the high-ish acidity one might have trouble identifying this as being made from the same grape as the sadly under-achieving region.

The fruit is a similar melange to that on the nose. However, on the palate the pear is more pear-skin and the hint of raspberries show their skin too. There is a definite fruity astringency to this palate. There is no rot, no decaying wood, no wet dog, it is far too lovely to have Loire characteristics like that which can, at best, be described as an acquired taste!

The high-ish acid and fruity astringency combine with the mineral power of the old vines to give this Ian Naude Old Vines Chenin Blanc a marked, profound structure. It is a weighty, conspicuous presence in your mouth as you swirl it around. It is well-endowed with flavour.

Once again, the skill of the viticulteur has produced perfect fruit that, when transformed sympathetically into wine, shows no excess or overt heaviness. It is just… beautiful!

I have had some wonderful dry Chenin Blancs in my life, the best of which have been South African. Yet, whenever my mind starts filling with a mess of them scrummaging for possession, this Ian Naude Old Vines Chenin Blanc carefully, but potently, ushers them all off the side-lines of the pitch whilst it scores yet another try right under the posts.

This is stunning!


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