• Delheim Wild Ferment Chenin Blanc still hitting the 1986’s high notes.

    The year 1986 was…wild. And not just because Delheim’s Ou Jong (Old Youngster) vineyard – the one that realised its famed Wild Ferment Chenin Blanc – was planted then. Indeed, the Stellenbosch winery has just released its latest vintage, the first since achieving official Heritage Vineyard status.

    More than anything, the Delheim Wild Ferment Chenin Blanc 2021 epitomises the renowned family-owned winery’s slogan: Worth the Journey.

    The special seal and serial number the bottle now carries, guarantee its pedigree, but also point to that wild era connected to the making of the wine itself. Rather than introducing commercial yeast, Delheim allows “wild” strains in the air around the winery and on the grapes to spark fermentation.

    “I like spontaneous or wild fermentation with this vineyard because it is old enough to tell a story,” says cellarmaster Roelof Lotriet. “Younger vineyards are like children, still needing direction. Older vineyards like the block we use for the Wild Ferment Chenin Blanc have lived through many winters and can tell many tales.

    “For me, it’s like that relative who tells all the best stories at the campfire or dinner table,” he says.

    And what stories the wine can tell, stories that echo still today.

    “1986 was a time of intense creativity,” says Roelof.

    “Top Gun was a massive blockbuster hit and Metallica’s Master of Puppets album was released. Today, Top Gun is back at number one at the Box Office and Master of Puppets is trending again thanks to Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things.”

    Image: Supplied

    Also in 1986, Queen released its It’s a kind of Magic album and the first group of musicians were inducted into America’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. This included Elvis Presley, James Brown, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and Jerry Lee Lewis. That was the year that the Oprah Winfrey Show debuted too and not insignificantly, was the year that Roelof Lotriet was born.

    “It really was and is a wild time to be alive,” he says.

    Speaking of the wine, he points out that only one block is used for the Wild Ferment Chenin Blanc. To avoid producing a one-dimensional expression, Delheim ferments the wine in different vessels, like older 500L French oak barrels and concrete, egg-shaped tanks.

    “The reason for using older barrels is that I’d like to express as much Delheim Chenin blanc fruit in the wine as possible, and not French terroir.”

    It is left on the lees for another “nine or so” months before the final blend is made up. A very light filtration is done prior to bottling.

    “For me, this wine’s wonderful story is of Delheim and its pioneering history in the South African wine industry,” says Roelof.

    About heritage certification

    In all the winelands of the world, old vines are proudly mentioned on labels.

    Such is the value accorded to these elders and the wines they produce. But only in South Africa, is it possible for that claim to be certified by the regulatory authority.

    Here, members of the Old Vine Project (OVP) can now put a Certified Heritage Vineyards seal on bottles of wine made from vineyards of 35 years or older, together with the planting date. This is a guarantee to wine-lovers of authentic wines grown according to the OVP viticultural and winemaking guidelines.

    Tasting note

    The Delheim Wild Ferment Chenin Blanc 2021 shows a complex array of characteristics associated with this style. Dominant fragrances are stone fruits and orange peel supported by a subtle note of honeysuckle. There’s a display of vibrant fruit on the palate with plentiful mouthfeel and a lasting finish on the palate.

    Roelof suggests that with careful cellaring, the wine will age gracefully for at least six years from vintage.

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    Feature image supplied by Random Hat Communications

    Issued by Random Hat Communications