I remet Adrian Vanderspuy, the owner of Oldenburg at a tasting of the Estate’s wines recently and he said “you used to drive round Stellenbosch in a sports car in the late 1960s!” I did – and the sports car was a white Triumph TR3 in which my then employer had been involved in an accident and didn’t like it any more. Lucky me!
Some time later, I went to Oldenburg and the drive there, through the Banghoek Valley, is not something you forget in a hurry. Just a few kilometres from the town of Stellenbosch, this part of one of the most famous wine regions in the world, is known as a ‘sweet spot’ for the making of high quality wines in South Africa. Banghoek, or scary corner, was thus named for the presence of leopards and, in the early days of the settlement in the Cape, the Cape Mountain Lion. How scary it must have been for the local ‘sieketrooster’ to have ridden there on a dark and stormy night while tending his patients.
Adrian’s family arrived in the valley in the early 1950’s soon after arriving from India. His grandmother, Dorothy, who lived on the farm for some 60 years, remembered very fondly the first time she saw the sheer beauty of the place. Back then the farm was known as Rondekop, after the ‘round hill’ which today forms an integral part of the farm’s vineyards. Dorothy met Helmut Hohmann, who recently arrived from Oldenburg in Germany, and when Rondekop was put up for auction in 1955 on a cold and windy Cape winters night, (many of the potential buyers failed to show due to the miserable weather!) he bought it.
Originally a fruit farm, Rondekop now named Oldenburg, was planted with the first vineyards in the valley in the 1960’s. From the early 2000’s the opportunity for Adrian of capturing Oldenburg’s enormous potential in the production of high quality wines seemed like an opportunity too good to miss. From 2004, for a period of three years, the vineyards were completely replanted creating the opportunity to leverage Oldenburg’s perfect soils and aspect by adopting modern viticulture practices. Careful study of the soils, temperatures, wind variations and sunlight aspects led to the planting of different clones, to create variety within each grape type, of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc as well as a few interesting blending varieties, Viognier, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Grenache and Mourvedre. The beauty of Rondekop is that its shape, combined with soil type variations and changing microclimates, allows both Bordeaux and Rhône wine grape varieties to grow successfully.
One of the beliefs of Adrian and the Oldenburg team is that wine is an encapsulation of nature, the season, the microclimates. On the estate sustainable and organic agriculture play a major part, as do the variations of biodynamics used. Predator insects such as wasps and ladybirds are released into the vineyard to do pest control. Hay bales are used along the plant row to control weeds and reduce the use of sprays. Seaweed compounds are used with irrigation to provide nutrients to the vines. Because soil health is important, steps are taken to ensure the development of a healthy soil microbial population. The use of tractors in the vineyards which could compact the soils is limited. Much of the vineyard work of pruning, leaf removal, weeding and harvesting is done by hand.
Oldenburg produces small quantities of their quality hand made wines. The viticulturist ensures that the vines carry the load of bunches they are able to, and only the best grapes make it to the winery. Grapes are hand harvested and taken to the cellar for cooling to protect the flavours. Finally the bunches are hand sorted before crushing. During the winemaking processes, gravity rather than pumping moves the wine through the cellar. Yeasts are carefully chosen as are the oak barrels which support the flavours of the fruit in the vines. Winemaking takes place on Glenelly Estate, owned by Madame May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, former owner of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Bordeaux, France. Luke O’Cuinneagain, the winemaker, has made wine at Screaming Eagle in California, Chateau Angelus and Chateau de Fieuzal in Bordeaux and at Rustenberg in Stellenbosch.
Wine Tasting and Sales
As you approach the estate along the winding Banghoek Valley Road, midst the glorious mountains, you come upon the aesthetically pleasing Cellar Door building designed by architect Simon Beerstecher, responsible for the restoration of Rustenburg and Glen Carlou. London based interior designer Kelly Hoppen, originally from Cape Town, was responsible for the interior. The brief to create a building from which one can see the immaculate Oldenburg vineyards, with their imposing backdrop of the Stellenbosch Mountains, is well met. The use of thatch, local stone façade and colouring have been chosen to give the building an African feel – simple, elegant, welcoming.
Wine Tasting and Sales Hours
Monday – Friday: 10h00 – 16h30
November – April: Saturdays & Public Holidays: 10h00 – 16h00
May – October: Saturdays & Public Holidays: by appointment only
Read about Oldenburg’s wines – click here.
Staff and the local community are important to Adrian Vanderspuy. All previously employed staff, now in retirement, are housed off the estate in their own homes of which they have ownership. This has lead to the smaller Oldenburg community of immediate staff and families (now less than 20) living in a quieter, friendlier, safer and more comfortable environment. All employees are offered opportunities to further their own skills, which will allow them to advance themselves. Kylemore, a little village nearby benefits through contributions to the Rugby Club, and the Kylemore Brass Band, often seen at Oldenburg. There is a small church on the farm, renovated under the watchful eye of Dorothy, which provides a place for weekly prayers and Sunday church services.
A final word from Adrian ‘If one had to find a single word that best describes our overall philosophy it would be balance. We realise that we are very fortunate with our terroir and know that we need to work in balance with nature as it is central to who, what, and where we are. Balance in the vineyard is essential to capture the best nature has to offer and equally we strive to make wines with great balance, complexity and elegance. We strongly believe that the success of our wines will ultimately come from realising the potential that our vineyards and nature have to offer.’
Wine region Stellenbosch
Oldenburg Vineyards, Zevenrivieren Road, Banghoek Valley, Stellenbosch
GPS co-ordinates: 33° 55′ 45.03″ S, 18° 56′ 45.32″ E
Telephone : 021 885 1618