In Burgundy, it took many centuries to achieve perfection. Originally, the monks made wine for celebrating mass; however, over time they perfected the art of viticulture through learning from experience to gain knowledge and – eventually – understanding. Through research and experimentation, they gained the skills to develop their vineyards, and ultimately their wisdom created some of the finest wines in the world.
There is no doubt that to make great wines, time is your friend. Here at Oldenburg, we have been planting vines on Rondekop for over sixty years, but we have only acquired a deeper understanding of our terroir over the last five to ten years. With the more recent stewardship under Nic, the development of our understanding has dramatically accelerated.
In June, it was with great sadness that we started removing the vineyards we first planted when we purchased the farm. Our Cabernet Franc, along with a few blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon (all planted in 2004), have now been removed. The decision was made as part of our commitment to eradicate leaf roll virus. It was less about what we could afford to do, and more about what we couldn’t afford not to do. Leaving infected vineyards would undermine the entire farm – including all the new plantings
Our mission is to cultivate vineyards that will last for generations. And this is possible. It will require extreme diligence in following protocols that stop the spread of the virus. Protocols that we already have in place. Our problem mainly stemmed from the fact that the original planting material was infected, and it can take a decade or more to show itself. Our solution is to replant with certified virus-free stock.
The leaf roll problem has been with us since 2015, but we now have a plan in place called Generation Three (named as it is the 3rd planting of vineyards on the farm). With this plan, we will entirely rid ourselves of leaf roll – at the very least, bring it down to the most negligible incidence possible. To quote Benjamin Franklin: “Out of adversity comes opportunity.”. With replanting beginning in 2017, we are taking our enhanced understanding of our vineyard blocks and using it to re-establish blocks with better soil delineation, more appropriately planted cultivars, and more suitable rootstocks and clones, all of which will accentuate the many nuances found on Rondekop.
In May, Stefan was honoured by being selected as one of Wineland Magazine’s “30 Under 30” – effectively the next generation of thinkers, leaders and game-changers in the South African wine industry. In Stefan’s case, his selection was a no-brainer – we are proud of the excellent work Stefan is doing, not just in The Tasting Room, delighting customers, but also with helping Nic. Stefan’s palate is an excellent sounding board in the winemaking selection process.
Two significant projects were started in June. The beaten track to the farm will become less beaten as we pave over the potholes. And at The Tasting Room, we are weather-proofing the View. Our ‘stoep’ (terrace) will have a new roof added. The “afternoon air-conditioner” a.k.a. the Cape Doctor can be a little demanding, so we will also add some doors for the blustery days. We look forward to sharing these exciting changes with our guests.
In the cellar, Nic has been blending the 2020 Syrah. He is confident that he has now cracked the code on Rondekop for our Syrah; not only the Stone Axe but also the Oldenburg Vineyards Syrah. Release dates for the 2019 reds are just over the horizon, so make a mental note for September – these wines are not to be missed! All the 2021 wines are now safely in their respective vessels, and barrel tastings with Nic, Jurgen, Vanessa, Stefan and myself, revealed several exceptional components. More on these in the next few months.
The Cabernet Franc 2018 is our featured wine for June. I had a quiet moment of reflection as I passed the ‘decapitated’ block recently. Our first wine on the farm came from this block in 2007, and it showed us the extraordinary potential of the cultivar on Rondekop.
In an accelerated world, we believe that centuries can be reduced to decades, or even possibly a few years. We have learned much from the many experiences to date. Our knowledge has morphed into a deeper understanding of our vineyards. Our hope is now for a little sprinkle of fairy dust called wisdom on our journey of Translating Rondekop’s terroir