Dogged pursuit of wine excellence
Winemaker combines a love of pooches with a passion for blending unique South African offerings
DEDICATED winemakers, their blends, their dogs and passion for animal welfare harmonise happily in the Stellenbosch wine region, where several producers are as devoted to their canine companions as to the contents of their tanks and barrels.
It’s a trait that has been illustrated on a number of labels sporting images of beloved pets alongside names like Bristle Red (Lorna Hughes’s delightful blend) and Mike Dobrovic’s Faithful Hound from Mulderbosch.
Stellenbosch-based Adoro wines have chosen to stay with more classic labels, even though winemaker Ian Naude is another champion of canine wellbeing.
Recently, I found my way to a smart office park on the crest of a hill between suburban and rural Durbanville, where a designer suite makes an appropriately glamorous home for Intra International, a South African company and the only non-Scottish owner of a Speyside distillery. With Adoro wines, it produces Ben Riach, a classy single malt that starts at R400 and tops out at around R20 000 – that’s a bottle.
A vertical tasting of Naude’s meticulously crafted wines started with his 2006 Five Regions sauvignon blanc, in which grapes from Elim, Elgin, Stellenbosch, Durbanville and Darling were fermented separately before the blending process started. The result is a wine with staying power that exhibits Old World elegance and New World fruit, that can enhance not only seafood, but oriental spice and some red meat. The 2008 vintage is delightfully different, offering the freshness of a sorbet, distinct minerality and a long finish, while the 2009 is already showing Elim and Elgin characteristics ahead of those typical of Stellenbosch.
Naude White Blend
has acquired a fine reputation since its 2006 début, and the recently released 2008 is sure to draw more praise: Semillon, chenin and some sauvignon blanc from 12 vineyards in several regions make up this complex mix, a big wine in every respect and one that offers new layers of flavour the longer you leave it in the glass.
Both whites retail for less than R100, offering good value for those who regard Cape white blends as among our most exciting products. I find these to be on a par with similar products selling at twice the price.
Naude is selling his 2005 Adoro red blend at R120 – a complex, carefully balanced blend of mostly shiraz, with a little cab and merlot, and another great good food partner that will continue to develop over the next few years.
Talking wine in Durbanville was also a homecoming of sorts for Naude, who grew up there before studying, then travelling extensively between bouts of winemaking. He took the plunge of going solo four years ago but enjoys the companionship, support and cooperation of four other industry high-fliers: the extraordinary Eben Sadie, along with Kevin Grant, Teddy Hall and Bruwer Raats, individualists known for their stylish labels and niche wines.
Naude spends time searching for hidden vineyards with potential where grapes are usually delivered to local bulk producers for low prices. Successful negotiation with the farmer sees Adoro nurturing the vines to harvest, while the owner benefits from substantially increased prices.
Blends are not only Naude’s personal passion but are the category that could make South African wines both unique and renowned across the globe.
He states, with quiet conviction: “We are the only country that can put the best of the Old and New Worlds together to produce exciting niche wines.”
His opinion is echoed by connoisseurs in London, which Naude regards as the centre of the wine world. It’s there, he says, that trends start, then ripple out across the globe. His visits always include a few hours at a couple of wine shops on Kensington High Street to watch what customers are buying.
Back home, mornings start with a run around Joostenbergvlakte, when he and his pooches are often joined by other canines who know the routine.
Along with several Stellenbosch winemakers, Naude is an enthusiastic fund-raiser for Stellenbosch Animal Welfare.
When it’s for dogs, he says, Stellenbosch farmers give their best wines for auctioning. Ongoing support to the tune of R120 000 a month also pays for a veterinary surgeon who spends much time sterilising farm dogs to prevent unwanted litters.
Staying in Durbanville, where Diemersdal estate is attracting kudos for Thys Louw’s exciting sauvignon blancs and flagship red blend. One of his lesser-known labels has hogged the limelight this week: his 2007 shiraz is the proud winner of Wine magazine’s 2009 Shiraz Challenge. Judges praised its modern, accessible style and clean, pure fruit. Louw gave credit to fellow winemaker Mari van der Merwe, whose maiden vintage at Diemersdal has proved to be a star. Best value shiraz and runnerup is Kango 2008, product of an Oudtshoor n landmark – and a result that is likely to produce animated comment in the industry. Local shiraz fans can taste the topscorers on September 8. For details, e-mail email@example.com.
WINNING STREAK: Diemersdal winemaker Thys Louw has added the 2009 Shiraz Challenge to his trophies.
ROUND THE BLEND: Blends and canine welfare are Ian Naude's twin passions.
VINE ART: Art in the vineyards by acclaimed landscape artist Strijdom van der Merwe illustrates Naude's passion for blending.