Ian Naudé is a genius. He would deny this, claiming all the beautifully sculpted, supremely elegant wines he makes are just him taking a liquid photograph of his old vines and where they grow. He is missing the point that achieving this with the style and élan he manages is an act of genius.
If the natural wine movement has taught us anything is that you do not capture the essential essence of a vineyard by just harvesting grapes, letting them ferment and bottling at some stage after you have put them into the fermentation vat. No. Expressing the qualities of a vineyard takes knowledge and skill.
And does not Ian apply these so well to the grapes he grows? Everything he does, from tasting his grapes to know when is the optimal time to harvest to ageing his wines before release so they show at their best, is driven by deep knowledge and unbounded skill.
His skills are recognised to a degree that he plays a big role in educating the next generation of South African winemakers. He communicates his skills and aesthetic ideals very clearly – as demonstrated by one of his more globally famous protégés being Eben Sadie.
So, maybe holding a liquid mirror up to nature – but the construction of that mirror requires a lot of skill, knowledge as application. His genius is becoming more widely recognised as global demand for his wines is increasingly explosively; he is a cult winemaker these days.
Today I sample and review Naudé’s Old Vine Series Cinsault Werfdans 2016. It has large footsteps of the 2015 Cinsault to follow and try to fill.
Let us go; last one to be seduced is a philistine!
A wonderful nose of red berry fruit, fresh and ripe, bursting with life. There is a distinctly spiciness to the Werfdans 2016 nose as well, again distinctly vivacious. Both of these exhibit quite an intensity of flavour, a product of the old vines used for Werfdans 2016.
The really appealing thing about the Werfdans 2016 nose is, even with the intense fruit and spice, is that the nose exhibits extreme elegance and restraint. It is not the slightest bit over-blown or hot. Being 12.5% alcohol obviously drives this.
A typical Australian winemaker would look at this alcohol level and sneer, “Why should I make wine from unripe fruit?” But it is not unripe. The careful choice of when the fruit was ready to harvest by Ian Naudé has resulted in a wine with fresh, bright, ripe fruit, but also real refinement and harmony.
The palate is also a model of balanced minimalism. Nothing heavy, nothing hard, everything delicious. That 12.5% booze quotient is a master stroke in making Werfdans 2016 a scintillating drink of energy and freshness.
Werfdans 2016 has a beguiling combination of berry fruit and spiciness on the palate, together with some creamy minerality from the vineyard. The red fruit and spiciness are products of the Cinsault grape, their pronounced character from the old vines of Werfdans 2016 and the energy and freshness from the inspirational potential alcohol level at harvest.
Werfdans 2016 is the product of nature, harnessed through the lens of the genius of the winemaker. Ian Naudé is a genius, worthy of his cult winemaker status.
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