Oldenburg Vineyards and a Hill of Grace

Geneva-based investment gnome Adrian Vanderspuy is a cautious trader. Before he bought his 50ha viticultural eden consisting of an isolated koppie in the Banghoek Valley outside Stellenbosch (Adrian has bravely reverted to the original scaredy-pants spelling from the more anodyne Banhoek of Stellenbosch bureaucrats) he did some careful research into the farm and its viticultural potential. Well this investment is right on the money and his Oldenburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 is probably the finest New World Cabernet this side of Stephen Henschke’s Eden Valley efforts in South Australia. A magnificent, sweetly fruited masterpiece made by Simon Thompson in the pioneering perfumed mould of Etienne le Riche, the master of this style in the Jonkershoek, a forgotten valley full of Afrikaans billionaires. Sans mint, sans tomato paste; in a word, wonderful (the wine, not the billionaires).

h1 Oldenburg Vineyards and a Hill of Grace

Oldenburg (left) and Henschke (right), terroir twins

At a food and wine pairing pyrotechnic display at La Mouette in Sea Point yesterday, Adrian was quizzed about the Oldenburg name and admitted to commissioning a design/feng shui consultant friend from the East (well he did operate as a banker in Singapore for six years and Hong Kong for three) as to what to call his farm called Oldenbourg. After many interviews and discussions, the brandmeister proposed Oldenburg. Nice work if you can get it. But subliminally, Adrian’s investment innards must have been churning as the packaging is a doppelganger for Australia’s finest brand Henschke, whose Hill of Grace is the finest single vineyard Syrah produced in the Land of the Hot Christmas. The connections are eerie:

Both brands are focused on a hill (although in the Australian case, you’ve got to have a fertile imagination as the Hill of Grace is pretty pancake-like). Adrian reports walking through “bands of air” (like Kate Bush in a beanie) as you climb his hill which is 3-5° cooler than Stellenbosch in summer (thanks to catching the cooling breezes) and warmer in winter due to more sun.

Both farms were established by German settlers in their respective gardens of Eden;

Both sites produce grapes with muscular yet velvety tannins.

h21 Oldenburg Vineyards and a Hill of Grace

Simon Thompson and Adrian Vanderspuy

The Oldenburg 2008 Cab is the most exciting wine launched this year to date by a rara avis indeed whose first act – “proprietor’s prerogative” laughs Simon – was to grub up the old virused Sauvignon Blanc vineyards. “By the time we would be ready to launch, Sauvignon would be in oversupply” responds Adrian with the vast plantings in Elgin in the back of his mind “and besides, Sauvignon Blanc is like sweets. As you get older and your palate matures, you just can’t eat them anymore.” An acute opinion from someone living in the land of Lindt and Sprungli and other fine chocolates, but true. Could SA wine be about to leave its infancy and transition to the grown up world of fine wine? If so, Adrian’s investment in Oldenburg will surely shoot out the lights as they say in investment circles.