I’ve always subscribed to the notion that older vines produce fewer but better grapes and therefore better wine. Producers brag about it on wine labels classifiying them as Old Vines/Vieilles Vignes/Viñas Viejas when they can and Alsace has now decided that any vineyard over 25 years can be described as old. Which actually makes me feel ancient.
But a tasting of Oldenburg wines from Stellenbosch has just kicked that theory right into touch. This is a vineyard with newly planted vines, whose first vintage was 2007 and whose wines are delivering complexity, depth and concentration just if the grapes had been harvested from OAP vineyards with a well-established root system, one of the major factors contributing complex flavours to a wine.
South Africa does actually have some of the oldest vines of Chenin Blanc in the world and it is rightly talked and boasted about. But here are young vines not rooted in 25, 30 or 40 years of wine-making back catalogues but producing wines as if they were. The owner of Oldenburg, Adrian Vanderspuy, would put this incongruity down to the terroir, the carefully selected varietal, clone and rootstock to suit the vineyard; the spacing and vine direction, the altitude, the surrounding features which mean cooler temperatures and the valley benefiting from longer than most sunlight hours.
However it is achieved, these factors, combined with very careful (and still experimenting) wine-making from Philip Constandius, are putting Oldenburg well and truly up there with some of South Africa’s top producers. These are memorable wines.
Chenin Blanc 2013 £15.95
Lightly oaked, crisp acidity, long flavours. A real mix of tart apple zestiness and tropical fruit roundness.
Cabernet Franc 2009 £21
Tea leaf, herby and black fruit aromas, dusty tannins, spicy and mouth-filling. Broad and powerful but not over-powering.
Syrah 2012 £21
Black cherry, white pepper, cinnamon spice. Firm, meaty with years ahead of it.
All wines available from Berry Brothers and Rudd