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.
The special seal and serial number the bottle now carries the guarantee of 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 cellar master 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.”
And what stories the wine can tell, stories that resonate 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.”
Also in 1986, Queen released its It’s A Kind Of Magic album and first the group of musicians inducted into America’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame 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.
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.”
With careful cellaring, the wine will age gracefully for at least six years from vintage.
Wild Ferment Chenin Blanc is R170/bottle from Delheim’s online store and leading retailers.
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