You won’t find any packets of yeast in Oldenburg Vineyards’ winery. Winemakers who use them get to sleep at night, says Oldenburg’s winemaker, Nic van Aarde, who is committed to native yeasts and the qualities they bring to his wines. While he is here in the UK, some of his 2023 wines are yet to complete fermentation.

Oldenburg, in the sunken valley of Banghoek at around 400m altitude above the town of Stellenbosch, has gone through convulsive changes in its relatively short life. Before the first vines were planted in 2003, it was a mixed farm with crops including plums. Their first wines were released in 2007, but it took until 2019 until they had their own winery in which to make them.

There has also been money spent more than once for the same patch of vines, as leafroll virus has been found. Where the incidence is more than 20%, the entire block has been ripped out and replanted. If it’s less than 20%, individual affected vines are replanted.

The mealy bugs which act as a vector for leafroll are controlled by introducing natural predators, ladybird larvae and parasitic wasps, which find a home in the naturally occurring fynbos which they are keen to retain around the vines. They also use no herbicides, using cover crops to suppress weeds. Oldenburg is not certified organic, but, Nic says, they are “flirting with it”.

Nic is a great ambassador for Oldenburg, a thoughtful and enthusiastic winemaker and communicator. With such young vines and owners who are clearly happy to invest in their project, the story of Oldenburg is really just beginning.

Personal highlights

2022 Chenin Blanc, which, because of re-planting, is mostly from bought-in fruit. Ripe yellow apple, almond and yes, quince lead onto a richly textured palate, kept in check with fine acidity. Available to buy in the UK for around £24.

2022 Chardonnay is very harmonious, with a lovely interplay of fruit and savoury flavours, a hint of ripe, buttery apple, then confit lemon on the finish. It’s hugely drinkable. Also around £24.

2020 Rhodium is from their Rondekop barrel selection range. 60% Cabernet Franc (Nic is clearly excited about the quality of this variety here, as this Rhodium used to be Merlot dominant before he arrived in 2018), 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has evolved flavours of malty black tea, with berry fruits, a touch of smooth and smooth tannins. RRP £48 in the UK.


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