Oldenburg Wines are a relatively new outfit, but their first releases have already caused a stir, scooping awards left right and centre.
London Wine Fair provided an opportunity to check them out for myself and, as you’ll see from my notes below, I was impressed by these medium bodied, finely honed wines, especially the slender but structured Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
First, a bit of background to lift off the page some of the quality factors behind the wine. Of course, money helps and I suspect that Swiss-based owner Adrian Vanderspuy, a stock broker, is not short of a bob or two. But money alone does not make great wines (indeed, it can be counter-creative). But I suspect Vanderspuy’s very personal connection with the place is key – passion can take you a long way.
The South African was born on Rainbow’s End, a neighbouring farm of Oldenburg Vineyards, which is located in the Banghoek (meaning scary corner – leopards, say no more) Valley, Stellenbosch. Though Vanderspuy left the country when he was 3 years old, his grandmother lived on the Oldenburg estate for more than 40 years, so Oldenburg became his home in the Cape.
Adrian bought the farm in 2003 following extensive research into its wine making potential and decided to completely replant it. So what makes it the pot of gold (medals at least) at the end of the Rainbow or thereabouts? The grass between the rows may look parched, but the vineyard benefits from cool influences thanks to an elevation range of 300- 450m above sea level. Apparently winds funnel through the valley and whip around the conical hill which is the vineyard. This, no doubt combined with low night time temperatures, makes for a long, even growing season. It would certainly account for the balance and intensity of the wines.
Though it has a cellar door (interior designed by Kelly Hoppen no less), there’s no winery as yet. Perhaps no need when the wines are made at Glenelly, which is owned by May de Lencquesaing of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in France.
Here are my notes on the wines:
Oldenburg Chenin Blanc 2011 (Stellenbosch)
This is the second release. It shows Chenin’s classic honey notes on nose and rich, ripe but balanced palate, with lemony acidity. Flinty/toasty notes give it a renaissance Aussie Chardy spin, which detracts a bit from the typicity, but it’s a very attractive, drinkable wine. 13% abv
Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011 (Stellenbosch)
This is the first release. Ripe white peach fruit with a hint of white chocolate is judiciously cut with limey acidity. Pleasant and promising given the youth of the vines. One to watch. 14.5% abv (which isn’t elbowy).
Oldenburg Syrah 2009 2011 (Stellenbosch)
There’s a hint of braai – a smokiness – which I often pick up with South African reds. In the mouth the fruit is bright and juicy – blood plum – with hints of garrigue. Ripe but present tannins lend some gentle grip. Good. 14.5% abv
Oldenburg Cabernet Franc 2009 (Stellenbosch)
Pale ruby in hue, with bell pepper, cedar and lead pencil of the nose – great varietal typicity, which follows through on a red berry and cherry palate. I really liked the levity to this finely honed wine and its gently dusty whisp of fine tannins. Very good, not even taking into account that this is just the second release. Exciting.
Oldenburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Stellenbosch)
Like the Cabernet Franc, this medium-bodied wine shows great varietal typicity over winemaking. The palate shows fresh black berry and currant fruit, a subtle hint of capsicum and attractive, well integrated cedar spice. Again sympathetic oaking. The tannins are firm, lending the whole great rectitude. Would benefit from another year or so in bottle to allow the tannins to mellow a touch. Promising. 14.5% abv
I’m told that the whites will retail for around £16 and the reds for £20-22.