I Can See Clearly Now, The Rain Has Gone

This morning was a great one! Thys and I went to the top of Rondekop to do some filming for this month’s TeleView. After a day of mid-harvest rain, there is no better place to film than at the top of Rondekop. We completed the various video takes, and then Thys popped back to the office and created a clip summarising the moment – with the theme song: I Can See Clearly Now the Rain Has Gone. I am sure you all know the feeling – it is sometimes only after the rain has fallen, when nature shines its full beauty. Similarly, when we are wrestling with something, trying to figure it out, and the light goes on, it all becomes suddenly clear.

 

For me, it was just that kind of moment: the sun, the fresh air, the mind-blowingly stunning views, and a Jackal Buzzard soaring above our heads, riding the thermals above Rondekop. Added to that, the fact that the grapes hanging in front of me were literally just perfect. These particular grapes were destined for our Rondekop Stone Axe Syrah – a wine that has really begun to shine. In 2007, at our first harvest, we sent the grapes for analysis to a professor at Stellenbosch University. His response: “Wow! These grapes are off the charts fantastic” – and he meant it. We registered readings across his various data points that he seldom – if ever – saw. I had forgotten this conversation until recently, when the professor’s name came up in a conversation. I believe it was only with the launch of the 2016 Stone Axe where we began to truly realise this inherent exceptional quality in our Syrah blocks. The subsequent Stone Axe vintages have continued to root themselves deeper into our translation of this quality. It was this morning, for me, when the light switched on. I could see clearly that something special is on the way. Stay tuned!

 

As I write, we are halfway through harvest, and the team are pleased with the promise of a great vintage pulling through to the wines. We have finished harvesting the whites, but the reds still need to ripen further, perhaps another two weeks to go (so by my calculations, we should be harvesting them at the time this lands in your inbox). Our day temperatures continue to be unusually cool, and night time temperatures hover around +/-10 °C. Perfect for higher acidity. Nic, Etienne, and Gareth are particularly excited by the Cabernet Sauvignon – possibly the best yet for Oldenburg – so fingers crossed! The rainfall we just had was a concern – with a forecast of significant ‘winter-type storm’, high winds and up to 90mm rainfall (that’s 10% of our annual rainfall – extremely unusual in summer). As it happened, it was only 30mm, with no real wind of note. With soils hardened by a long summer, most of the rain ran off – no problem!

Earlier in March, Nic and I were part of a special virtual tasting, hosted by 67 Pall Mall. It was called Rondekop Translated. We were hosted by Demetri Walters MW, and presented a sneak preview of our Rondekop red wines (which are only due for release this September), alongside the recently released Oldenburg Vineyards Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc 2020, as well as the Grenache Noir 2019. Feedback from guests that watched was great – many of them had ordered a special tasting kit, so they had wine samples to enjoy during the tasting. According to one viewer, Nic was the star of the show. Another believed us to be ‘trailblazing’! My favourite comment came from Greg Sherwood MW (one of the guys who best knows South African wines): “The reds were epic!”. We’ll take that one, Greg – thank-you. The event was recorded and is available to watch, by clicking here.

 

Harvest is always a great time to be on the farm, and this year it has been no different. The month has been hard work for everyone – many late nights in the cellar and early starts for the harvesters – a well-honed team. Early in March, the wildfires kept us all awake – we never like to see nature pillaged like that. Our valley missed the brunt of it, as a wind shift literally at the most critical moment turned it away from our doorstep. A very special hats off to all the firefighters and volunteers who worked tirelessly to battle the blaze and keep the surrounding farms safe. For me, the memory of the Harvest of 2021 will be the emotional roller-coaster induced by these times of Covid. Just getting here from Europe was tough – never knowing from day to day if we could. Elation at finally being on the farm, with perhaps one of the great vintages upon us. The low of an approaching, potentially catastrophic fire. The sleepless nights. Then with the fire gone – all good again. Finally, the threat of a significant storm with the ability to undermine the anticipated perfection of the vintage, brewing and threatening for a week – and then passing with no issues. As I said – this morning was a great one – everything seemed so clear. We have reached the point of making great wines. It was a moment to pause and enjoy – poignant in fact!

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