This tasting follows on from a live webinar tasting I conducted on behalf of 67 Pall Mall with Oldenburg’s owner, Adrian Vanderspuy and winemaker, Nic Van Aarde, on the 4th March. For the full interview, see the Online Wine Tasting & Webinars section of my website.
If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Jurassic Park’ you’ll probably be instantly reminded of it when you visit the Banghoek Valley in the heart of Stellenbosch. The Oldenburg Estate, and its singular terroir, best characterised by the Rondekop hill, is amongst the most strikingly beautiful of vineyards on the planet.
At one time Stellenbosch was a trailblazer for South Africa, before the likes of Swartland and Elgin caught up and stole the limelight. However, the region has recently been regaining its stature and is now celebrating its preeminent place in South African wine culture as well as the manifold diversity and expression of its terroir. Here I taste the 2021 pre-release wines of Nic’s first two vintages at Oldenburg; an estate reinvigorated with a sense of purpose within a region confident of its identity.
2020 Oldenburg Vineyards, Chardonnay
Now, THIS is the confusion of Old & New Worlds that South Africa frequently shows…a wine that is undeniably Chardonnay: creamy, buttery, grapefruit rind; all wrapped-up in a charmingly expansive palate of white melon and lemon zest. But it’s the acidic tension that makes this wine so attractive. Couple this with a lovely oxidative looseness, smoky oak and unfolding complexity, and you’re presented with the very best Chardonnay that the estate has ever released. One for now, but better for the cellar.
2020 Oldenburg Vineyards, Chenin Blanc
Markedly taut and crisp in its construct, though possessing an underlying charm and volume that are yet to fully reveal themselves. At present a leaner, more restrained styling of the grape, and Chenin’s varietal character really shines through here: precision, notably high acidity, bruised apple character (but without the cidery notes), a lovely sour citrus twist, and no discernible lactic notes. Refreshingly tensioned without being lean or mean. This will prove a super food wine in time. Poised.
2019 Oldenburg Vineyards, Grenache Noir
Pale but vividly-hued and sporting a fragrant bouquet of crunchy red fruit, mainly cherry and raspberry. Almost cucumbery on the palate; redolent of watermelon rind when you nibble a little too much! The fruit, the whole fruit, and nothing but the fruit…though not a fruit ‘bomb’ by any means. No, altogether more restrained, and counterbalanced by bright acidity. Though not a particularly reflective wine at this stage, there’s still plenty going on. This is quite the revelation and highly quaffable. I’ve chilled my bottle.
2019 Oldenburg Vineyards, Stone Axe Syrah, Rondekop
Deep and brooding and not giving so much away on the nose at this stage of its extreme youth – mainly a little capsicum and hints of blackberry. There’s a delightful sweet and sour complex going on, with bright cherry freshness, leafiness and undergrowth providing a constantly changing weave of complexity. As for mouthfeel and texture, we find bright acidity stiffening the chewy but well-resolved tannins. This is a very serious wine that will doubtless put on weight. Oldenburg’s best wine ever, in my opinion, and one best forgotten about for a good 3 – 5 years in the cellar…or wherever else you won’t be tempted to commit infanticide.
2019 Oldenburg Vineyards, Per Se Cabernet Sauvignon, Rondekop
Inky and brooding. Very Cabernet Sauvignon on the nose, with mint, leaf, blackcurrant – all adding up to a lovely pithy, sappy expression, but one with plenty of bold fruit packed behind it. Whilst bright and refreshing, the acidity and tannins are balancing, poised, and well contained. They add to the both the pristine core of blackcurrant as well as the non-fruit persistence in this characterful wine. The wood presents itself through a relaxed mouthfeel rather than through distracting oak flavours. Abundant and long. This is really joyful now, and will continue to develop and improve for a good decade to come.
2019 Oldenburg Vineyards, Rhodium Blend, Rondekop (60% Merlot/40% Cabernet Franc)
Delicately fragrant with both red, black and non-fruit coming through as plum, violet, spice and leafiness. Altogether restrained and softly spoken, though quite persistent. Sappy Cabernet Franc wins on the palate at this stage, whilst crunchy blackcurrant, plum, cranberry and undergrowth follow. All kept fresh by a tensioning acidity, and framed by finely-grained tannins. Constantly evolving on the palate. A lovely medium weight wine. This has a long future ahead of it.