WHAT’S NEW WITH OLDENBURG?
We’ve just taken on Rakq, which is a South African-only wine importer into the UK market. It showed some of our wines at SITT in London and Manchester.
WHICH WINES DID VISITORS SEEM MOST EXCITED BY?
Our CL blends range – the white is Chenin/ Chardonnay and the red is Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc. People said they can’t believe the value for money at that price point (rrp £18). We also showed our Cabernet Franc. Oldenburg is very famous for Cab Franc; they were the first wines we made in 2007.
IS IT FAIR TO SAY CABERNET FRANC IS ON TREND AMONG SOUTH AFRICAN PRODUCERS?
Cab Franc has become very trendy. There are more than 80 producers of single varietal Cab Franc in South Africa. We’ve been making it for 16 years or so. Our little corner in Banghoek, Stellenbosch, is a top spot for Cab Franc. We do a single vineyard, and a blend called Rhodium (rrp £50), which is a Cab Franc base. It can be made in quite a lot of different styles – we make it somewhere between the Loire and Bordeaux. Lovely red fruit but there’s a bit of tannin and some seriousness there, too.
WHAT ABOUT WHITE WINES?
Chardonnay is very exciting. Everybody climbed on to the old-vine Chenin Blanc bandwagon because there’s a lot of old-vine Chenin. But Chardonnay – there’s an array you can make, from Hemel-en-Aarde, which is close to the sea, to Elgin, which is a cold, apple-growing area, to Stellenbosch which is slightly warmer. We’re in a high-altitude pocket of Stellenbosch, so we get lovely natural acidity. Producers have also figured out how to use oak.
DO YOU USE GRAPES JUST FROM YOUR OWN VINEYARDS?
For the reds, all our vineyards are in Oldenburg, but we’ve done a big replanting programme due to leaf roll virus and we’ve had to replace quite a lot of Chenin and Chardonnay. We’ve replanted with new clones. For now, I’m buying in a bit of fruit from Stellenbosch – old-vine Chenin from Bottelary Hills and Chardonnay from the Helderberg among other places. That’s been blended with [fruit from] some of my younger vineyards and once we find we’re getting the structure from the younger vineyards, we’ll go back to making estate only. I’ve planted eight Chardonnay vineyards in the past five years – we’ve a big focus on Chardonnay.
WHAT’S THE MOST CHALLENGING THING ABOUT THE UK MARKET?
The UK is going through tough economic times but there is a buzz around South Africa, and as producers we are standing together to slowly raise prices and not be seen as the value proposition. We’re showing we can make serious wines and command serious prices.