Last week I popped in at Oldenburg Vineyards in the Banhoek Valley, at the foot of the Helshoogte Pass, and the very friendly Sales and Marketing Manager Ina Basson told me that the bulk of their wines are sold in Germany generally, and in Oldenburg (near Bremen) specifically!

The farm previously consisted of Rondekop (after the hill with this name) and Ivy Know, and its previous German owner Helmut Hohman amalgamated the two farms and gave them the name Oldenburg,  in honour of the town in which he had a stake in a printing business.  As it is a regional name, the name cannot be registered locally.

The farm was bought in 2003 by Adrian Vanderspuy, a local lad who had been brought up in Australia, and who had initially dismissed the quality of South African wines, until he tasted Thelema’s Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, which he regarded to be excellent.  Both his grandmothers had past connections to the farm (Una van der Spuy, the well-known horticulturist, is one of them). The Oldenburg property was for sale, and before he made an offer, he had extensive soil tests done to evaluate the potential of the terroir.  He had the vines completely replanted in 2004, and in 2010 their first vintage was bottled. The emphasis is purely on quality, and three times a year wine maker and viticulturist Simon Thomson (previously with Tokara and Muratie) and his staff of 18 cut out the grapes that are not needed, giving them 3 – 8 tons per hectare compared to the more usual average of about 10 tons per hectare, Ina told me.  The property’s terroir is ideal for wine growing, being 300 – 450 meters above sea level, and its cooler climate due this height gives it a later harvest time compared to the neighbouring farms. Ina told me that their ‘Bio Viticulture’ approach to wine-making is a combination of Biodiversity, organic, and sustainability.  They work with what nature gave them, and try to intervene as little as possible, she said.

The winery has won a number of international awards, including a Gold at the International Wine Challenge 2011 for the Chenin Blanc, and a Gold at the Syrah Du Monde 2011 for the Syrah 2008.

The Tasting Room only opened three months ago, and was designed by architect Simon Beerstecher, a Stellenboscher now living in the United Kingdom, and who has also designed the Glen Carlou and Rustenburg buildings. The brief to the architect was to design a building focused on the view surrounding it, and not to overshadow the view. The interior decor was designed by Kelly Hoppen, a local from Cape Town who now lives in the UK.  Minimalism rules inside, with two artworks, of rhinos and elephants, by Nic Brandt. All decor items are sourced locally, and colours are natural and neutral. Chairs are made from leather, around a large tasting table, with a tasting counter and striking back-lit shelving displaying the wines.

In addition to tasting the wines, one can order Dalewood Fromage cheese platters, at R40 for one (150 gram) or R75 for two persons (250 gram), containing a selection of five of their cheeses, including Camembert, Brie and Huguenot.  The wines are not inexpensive, at R118 for the Chenin Blanc 2011 and Chardonnay 2010. Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Cabernet Franc 2009, and Syrah 2009 cost R182.  I am a Shiraz lover, but the Oldenburg Cabernet Franc had the smokiness I love in older-style Syrahs.   There has been no marketing to date of Oldenburg’s wines, but a small sign on the Helshoogte Pass road is attracting German tasters to the farm, said Ina.  Agents are selling Oldenburg Wines in Germany, Bulgaria, and the United Kingdom in the main.

Oldenburg Vineyards, Zevenrivieren Road, Banhoek, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 885-1618.  www.oldenburgvineyards.com Twitter:@OldenburgWines Monday – Friday, and on Saturdays and public holidays by appointment.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage