2016 Longridge “Ou Steen” Chenin Blanc
When Longridge winemaker Jasper Raats first set eyes on the estate’s Enkel Wingerd vineyard, it was love at first sight. “The vineyard inspired me to think of the very best Loire Valley Vouvray. I could see its vines making that kind of Chenin Blanc — the kind that improves with age, with flavors blossoming around each other like fruits and flowers in a summer garden.” Specifically, Jasper could see the vineyard making South Africa’s answer to one of his favorite Vouvrays, Domaine Huet Le Mont. “I knew Enkel Wingerd could yield that kind of quality, but with a distinctly South African character.” And that’s exactly what Jasper’s vineyard vision led him to: Ou Steen Chenin Blanc. (Even its name suits Jasper’s vision, as Steen is South African argot for Chenin Blanc.)
If you could see the Engel Wingerd vineyard, you’d see why it won Jasper’s heart. It’s a gorgeous property, set on the lower slopes of the Helderberg Mountain in the Stellenbosch region, composed of the world’s oldest granite soils. By day, its cool air from False Bay on the Atlantic Ocean refreshes its vines. By night, the vines benefit from cool air flows from the top of the Helderberg Mountain. That cool air and those ancient soils allow the vineyard’s Chenin Blanc to ripen slowly and evenly with good acidity. And because Longridge Wine Estate practices biodynamic viticulture, no herbicides, pesticides, or chemical sprays are used to grow its Ou Steen Chenin Blanc. “Our goal is to produce world-class wines by applying the age-old traditions of natural winemaking,” says Jasper. He vinifies Ou Steen with its native yeasts in old French barrels, then ages the wine in those same barrels sur lie for about 11 months. He bottles Ou Steen without fining or filtering.
What you get from a bottle 2016 Longridge Ou Steen Chenin Blanc is Jasper’s vision fully realized. It’s nose of orange blossom, Key lime, fresh pineapple, and honey nougat gives way to a palate of blood orange, gooseberry, and cherry vanilla, with a cool, fresh acidity weaving its way through all of the wine’s rich layers. Like Domaine Huet Le Mont, Ou Steen is structured with a powerful minerality. And like Le Mont, as Ou Steen ages, it develops greater length, greater finesse, greater complexity.
At four years of age, the 2016 Ou Steen is a glorious Chenin Blanc. And it’s just now beginning the best years of its life. With six more glorious years ahead of it, Jasper’s vision is as beautiful as Chenin Blanc can be and as beautiful as South Africa is. It’s a Loire Valley summer garden on a Stellenbosch summer day.