Two years ago I reviewed the previous vintage of Ian Naudé’s Oupa Willem Heritage Blend; I loved it! The 2019 has just arrived in the UK and I have a bottle!
Before we crack on with the note let me say there is one property of this wine I love just looking at the label; it says it is 11.5% alcohol. I love low alcohol wines. There is nothing wrong necessarily with high alcohol wines and it is possible to go too low, sure, but low alcohol wines can be so lovely.
Just to explain, for new readers, a South African Heritage blend is usually a blend of Cinsault with some Cabernet Sauvignon (about 40% in this example) and they were the types of wine generally produced by South African winemakers during the 50s and 60s.
Oupa Willem means Grandpa Willem.
Bloody hell, this bottle has the most irritating wax on it than any I have previously experienced. That does not matter! It is what is inside that counts – wax be buggered!
It has a very elegant red fruit nose, strawberries and raspberries (this comes from the Cinsault), seamlessly transitioning into darker, more blackcurrant-like fruit. It is very light and pure.
That lightness and purity is a direct product of the early harvesting/low alcohol. It has not been harvested too early, there is no unripe greenness to the nose. The fruit is just ripe and perfectly refined. I would suggest, however, that the low alcohol level coming from its early harvest is why this wine smells like it is going to have elevated acid.
That combination of red and black fruits merging seamlessly with a pinch of spice from the Cinsault and a crumble of earth gives this a sophisticated nose. It is not going to bowl you over with excessive, involute detail, but it is certainly complex.
Now the nose of this wine reminds me very much of the nose of a wine I had in 2010, Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru Ile des Vergelesses 2005, Domaine Chandon de Briailles. You can click on that name to take you to the note but for simplicity I shall summarise it now:
The Pernand was a lightly-fruited, pretty complex wine on the nose. It had a bright fruitiness to the palate. The palate was unusual in that its structure was more about fruit/acid balance with tannin in a supporting role (rather than the fruit/tannin balance with acid in a supporting role, that one tends to find more commonly with red wine).
And that note hits the palate perfectly! It has delicious, pure red fruit (ok, with some blackcurrant thrown in), lovely, bright, energetic acidity keeping it fresh and perky, with some light, silky tannins to add a little to the slightly unusual structure.
The balance and harmony are fine. There is ample fruit to match the acidity and my bet is that fruit will last and last throughout the wine’s life. The silky tannins stop this from being a harsh experience with that elevated acidity.
Oupa Willem 2019 has good length, and enough detail to engage the faculties – certainly good complexity here. Indeed, that unusual structure alone is enough to give it plenty of interest. It would certainly pleasure classical Pinot drinkers.
The two main points where I would say it diverged from the Pernand note are the additional blackcurrant fruit I have mentioned, and a spicy warmth added by the 60% Cinsault in the blend. That warmth, please note, is nothing to do with alcohol (as I have discussed in depth).
I said the Pernand would age for five or more years from 2010; it would have aged for longer than that. So will this, maybe for a very long time indeed. Keep some for many years, certainly.
Finally, I said of the Pernand:
I’d be a fool not to purchase more of this.
I published that note on the Pernand after 17:00 on 16th January. In the afternoon of 17th January, I rang up the wine merchant selling the Pernand 2005 to score some more bottles of it. It had sold out! Some bugger(s) had bought it all before I could!
As I write this note, three more bottles of Oupa Willem 2019 are being checked into my long-term storage. Ha!