Top Dog

For many years my grandmother sent me an aerogramme (a thin, lightweight piece of foldable and gummed blue paper, ready postage stamped, for writing a letter) each September for my birthday. I remember she would say she knew it was my birthday as the Piet-My-Vrou (Red Chested Cuckoo) would sing as soon as the weather turned warm. Her letters were always well received, and kept me connected to the Cape. These days I think the Piet-My-Vrou’s are few and far between; instead, it’s the Egyptian Geese and the European Swallows (the feathered variety) that have migrated to catch the first warm rays. Yes, it is September. Spring has arrived, and again the 180-odd day countdown to the next harvest has begun.


This month, one of the foremost UK wine writers dropped his much anticipated annual South African report. Tim Atkin MW has been following and writing about the Cape’s wine industry for several decades, and in his 9th annual report, there were some gems. His words echo those of many others, when he declares the Cape as the most exciting wine market globally: “…no other wine industry has made such strides, no other wine industry possesses such energy or excitement.”. He also said: “What it has achieved, not just since 1994, but in the nine years that I have been writing this report, is truly remarkable.”.


In his opinion, the Cape’s Chenin Blancs were now “Top Dog”, overtaking those from the Loire Valley in France (i.e. the best in the world). From his discussions with winemakers, it was apparent the collective goals of the industry were to place South Africa at the top of the New World in terms of quality. I would suggest that our collective ambitions are even higher. With the effect of the dreaded pandemic still ravaging the world, South Africa, and its wine industry, it was good to read Tim’s report. It also tied in with news from the UK (our largest export market), where SA wine sales are up 43% in the year (to August) in value. This growing appreciation for the Cape’s wines has solid underpinnings.


Ten years ago – and without ever having blended a wine – Vanessa, Simon Thompson and myself spent an afternoon at Glenelly (where we were vinifying our wines at the time) and concocted our first ever blend. It was a cross between a cooking class and a science experiment, with beakers, pipettes, and many sample bottles. With some excellent Merlot and Cabernet Franc showing themselves from our young vineyards, we wanted to see if marrying the cultivars would enhance the wine. It did, and Rhodium was born.


In the Point of View section of our September issue of Oldenburg Vineyards’ Views, we discussed the ageing of wines. We strongly recommend ageing, but completely understand the difficulties in holding back from pulling that cork! I suggest that our wines, particularly the reds, will age beautifully over a decade or two. From an investment point of view, there is also a definite upside. One way to do this, is to buy 2 cases: one for the present and one for the future. We can always assist with storage solutions, as well as offer a little peek into our Wine Library, through tastings with Stefan and his team.


On an entirely different note, we mentioned our solar project a few months ago. We are waiting for the next phase of this project, which could possibly utilize hydrogen cells as a storage solution for when the sun is not shining. Hydrogen cell technology is rapidly gaining traction as one of the elegant ways for the world to head to Net-Zero. It can be created from renewable energy, and used to store the energy until needed. It is also a vector of energy – effectively allowing the export of excess renewable energy. It just so happens that South Africa is endowed with one of the largest solar and wind resources on the planet. In September, I attended a virtual conference on South Africa and its Hydrogen future. I do not have the space here to go into details, but in my opinion, there is a potentially ENORMOUS opportunity here – one that could help solve many of the country’s economic (and CO₂) problems. I will have to return to this in the future – stay tuned.


It’s Spring, we are full of energy, and we are totally excited. How could we not be? We are standing in the middle of the beautiful Banghoek Valley, with Rondekop proudly in front of us, and only 180 days to get it all together – the race has begun, but it is a joy!

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