So much has been written about the super iconic Naude Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2013 recently that it reminded me that at the time of the release of the 2016, Ian Naude had commented to me that he thought this vintage might be the closest expression he had come stylistically to the resplendent heights of the 2013. At the time of tasting a pre-release sample of 2016 in November 2017, I had my doubts.
But recently I was contacted by a large private South African fine wine buyer who asked me if I had tasted the 2016 recently. Shockingly I admitted that I had not. The real question centred around whether or not they should track down the last of the 2015 vintage or buy the current release 2016 on the market. So with a cold bottle in the fridge from a new shipment that recently arrived from South Africa in December, I cracked a bottle and dived in.
Made from three vineyards, two from Durbanville and one from the Swartland, the vines were at the time, on average 40 years old. Picked on taste and flavour ripeness and not analysis ripeness as is usual for Ian, the juice was naturally fermented with no additions after the fruit was crushed in whole bunches and then transferred directly into used 300 and 500 litre French oak barrels. The wines were then left as long as possible on their lees with bâtonnage generally once a week.
As with all Naude Old Vine Series wines, the essence of Ian’s style is to allow the high quality fruit to express itself as naturally as possible and allow it to tell its own authentic story. In 2016, South Africa was experiencing its second consecutive year of severe drought and many of The Cape’s vines had not quite had the time to reacclimatise to the water shortage. But beyond all reasoning and science, the hardy Chenin Blanc Old Vine vineyards across the Western Cape produced some of the most concentrated and expressive wines seen in years. Critical scores from the world’s leading wine critics abound highlighting the exceptional opulence, intensity and balance of the 2016 Chenin Blancs.
Naude Family Wines Old Vine Series Chenin Blanc 2016, 12.5% Abv., WO Western Cape
When first tasted in 2017, I described the 2016 wine as ‘embryonic’ and ‘more similar to the 2015 Chenin Blanc’ at the time. Revisiting this delicious Old Vine white, reveals the passing of time has clearly marked this wine and improved it immeasurably. The aromatics retain their austere crushed granite and gravel dust minerality but are now joined by tantalisingly rich notes of waxy green apples, under ripe quince, dried straw, summer fynbos and subtle notes of dried thyme. But it’s on the palate where the greatest differences can be observed with a fuller, more textural mouthfeel infused with reductive notes of struck flint, crunchy pears, tart white peaches and signature notes of citrus oil and pithy tangerine peel zest on the finish. The palate retains an incredible freshness, vibrancy and detailed line of acidity but seems to have gained additional flamboyant breadth and depth. While impressively youthful still, this beautiful expression gives discerning customers a rare chance to buy and experience a grand vin old vine Chenin Blanc with some developing bottles age at current release pricing. Definitely start drinking these beauties now but while not quite as monolithic as the legendary 2013 Chenin, this wine shows abundant staying power and age ability. Drink now to 2038+.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)