This is not a wine or producer that I’m particularly familiar with other than seeing and hearing a lot of people raving about the wines being made by seventh generation winemaker Attie Louw at the Opstal Estate in Slanghoek, north of Stellenbosch.
The Opstal Estate Carl Everson Chenin Blanc at 14 Abv, is Attie’s interpretation of how he sees his pure expression of Old Vine Chenin Blanc represented. Made from fruit sourced from a single vineyard planted in 1981, the grapes were fermented in old French oak for a slow, extended 8 months in barrel due to a slightly nutrient deficient must. This is definitely an ambitious wine.
The colour is a noticeably dark straw, lemon yellow suggesting power, ripeness and weight. There is indeed a rich, exotic sweetness on the nose reminiscent of Madagascan vanilla pod, creme brûlée and a panna cotta opulence mixed with dried mango strips, passion fruit, tangerine peel, and caramelised apples. But you’d be wrong to mistake this wine as being rich and monotone, because the longer it sits in the glass, the more complex it becomes. Sweet bay leaf baking herbs give way to yellow grapefruit preserve and crunchy yellow peaches. Dense and textural, this wine treads a fine line with fruit richness, sweet oak and bruleed length without ever being vulgar, over blown or excessive. In a riper vintage, who knows, but this beautiful 2015 picked earlier in a drought year, retains sufficient acidity and displays fantastic balance and intensity. The wine tightens up impressively on the finish and displays more overt minerality with spicy ginger and lemon herb complexity. A lot to think about and a lot to digest with this profound expression of Chenin. Best to make space in your diary! Drink now to 2028+
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)