During March, the days were long, with early starts to make the final picking decisions. Harvesting started off early enough in the mornings to ensure the grapes remained cool and fresh – and not breaking the cold chain, by placing the harvested grapes directly into our cool room, and chilling them down to 4°C. Every small step of the process continually undergoing improvement. As an example, this harvest we upgraded the picking crates to ones with perforated bottoms. This allows the cold air in the cool room to penetrate the bunches better, ensuring all the grapes are evenly chilled.
In April, we are (with much excitement) releasing the Rondekop Stone Axe Syrah. The 2019 is Nic’s first vintage of Stone Axe, and really shows his intuitive winemaking skills through his ability to create a hugely enjoyable wine both now, or – for those who are patient – a wine that will develop beautifully in the future. The availability of this wine is extremely limited: we have only produced about a 1000 bottles.
The name Stone Axe is from the proliferation of stone (hand) axes found at the top of Rondekop while doing the soil preparation. There are a few examples of these in The Tasting Room, and in The Homestead. They were dated from between 150,000 and 90,000 years ago, in the Late Stone Age. Our theory is that the prominent position of Rondekop (located in the middle of the valley) gave these early humans an ideal 360° view of the surrounding amphitheatre. I often try to visualise what life would have been like for these people – and jest that the only thing missing in their world was a bottle of this incredible Syrah!
During the month, I spent quite some time walking through the vineyards. Nic has taught me that you must constantly taste the grapes to monitor ripeness and flavour development. I found it fascinating to taste the gradual ripening. It is clear that Nic has this down to a fine art – something that takes years of experience and many harvests to perfect. Watching both Nic and Christo in action, getting to the point where the call is made – “Let’s pick – let’s bring them in” was a great experience. Towards the end of March, we are harvesting the final Cabernet grapes, and I think the whole team is super excited to see what comes from these grapes, which looked like the best produced on Rondekop.
Earlier in March, we finally managed to get Demetri Walters, a Master of Wine, to the farm. An old friend with an encyclopaedic wine mind, it was great to show him the many facets of Oldenburg. The team thoroughly enjoyed his insights and thoughts. Demetri said of his visit:
“It’s been five years since I was last at Oldenburg. It was good to be back in this very special corner of Stellenbosch. Looking out from The Tasting Room, one can easily be seduced by the spectacularly beautiful view of the mountain peaks beyond Rondekop. Unbeatable vistas apart, the real substance of Oldenburg’s success can be found on the property itself. Having invested in its vineyards (so that they more closely reflect its singular sense of place), erected a purpose-built winery, and recruited a gifted new winemaker, the viticultural and winemaking teams are singing in harmony. The net result of this foundation is that the most recent wine releases are the best the property has ever produced. They are terroir wines that truly tell a story of a unique place, blessed with special natural influences and a dedicated group of people who have bold dreams“.
Vanessa and I hosted an Oldenburg evening in Johannesburg during the month. Working with Chef Wandile Mabaso, owner of Les Creatifs, we enjoyed a food and wine extravaganza, where he demonstrated wine and food pairing at its pinnacle. A chef to watch – he’s on the move! We look forward to repeating this enjoyable event in the future.
The next few months will contain quite a few events. We continue to host The 8 Elements Dinners in The Tasting Room. They are a central component of The 8 Elements Wine Club, and we receive excellent feedback from guests. In early June, Nic and I will be hosting several events in London, at 67 Pall Mall. Rondekop Translated will be a series of events where we unveil Nic’s first vintage, the 2019 Rondekop wines. Please do get in touch if you would like to attend.
Walking around the farm and witnessing the excellent detail we are now achieving in our vineyards certainly made me smile. Early pre-dawn morning harvests, and late evenings of punch-downs and pump-overs really puts the pressure on the entire Oldenburg Vineyards team. Seeing the team in action helping one another get the job done was a pleasure. Everyone pitching in with a smile on their faces was a sight to behold.
Harvest 2022 – another cracker!