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Oldenburg owner hits out at Pinotage

Adrian Vanderspuy of Oldenburg Vineyards in Stellenbosch has blasted South Africa’s flasgship red grape Pinotage, stating he has no interest in the variety.

Vines at Oldenburg in Stellenbosch overlooking Table Mountain
Vines at Oldenburg in Stellenbosch

Speaking to the drinks business at a wine dinner at High Timber in London last night, Vanderspuy said: “Pinotage? I’ll leave the banana wines to other people.

“I don’t like the grape variety and have no interest in planting it. There is so much more South Africa can do to a higher level.”

South African-born, Switzerland-based Vanderspuy, who owns the boutique, 30-hectare Oldenburg estate in the Banghoek Valley in Stellenbosch, is instead putting his energies into Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.

For his soon-to-be-released top wine, red blend Rhodium 2010, he decided to give Merlot a starring role in place of Cabernet Sauvignon.

“I wanted to lead with Merlot because everyone is leading with Cabernet Sauvignon, and as a relatively new estate owner, I wanted to be different,” he told db.

Adrian Vanderspuy
On red alert: Adrian Vanderspuy

“I started with 50% Cabernet in the blend but whittled it out completely in the end as the Merlot and Cabernet Franc worked so well together with a dash of Malbec.

“If you tasted the Malbec on its own you’d want to drink it by the gallon. It’s the most beautiful inky purple colour and has wonderful perfume,” he added.

Despite currently leading with Merlot, Vanderspuy, whose biggest export markets are Germany, Switzerland and the UK, hasn’t ruled out the idea of a Bordeaux-based red blend.

“I’m new to the game so am still working out which varieties are working best for us. It’s hard to single one out as having the best potential in South Africa.

“For us it would probably be Cabernet Sauvignon, but I think South Africa might end up having the most success with red blends that are more than the sum of their parts,” he said.

Rather than plough millions into building a winery, Vanderspuy currently rents the winemaking facilities at Glenelly, the Stellenbosch estate owned by former Château Pichon-Longueville owner May Elaine de Lencquesaing.

As for the whites, Vanderspuy believes passionately in the potential of Chenin Blanc, particularly when paired with a small percentage of Chardonnay and aged in 50% new French oak.

“Chenin has such a strong link to South Africa and it’s such a versatile grape.

“When I bought the estate in 2003 I had the chance to make Sauvignon Blanc but thought that in a few years there would be a glut and the thirst for it would die down,” Vanderspuy admitted.

“The world doesn’t need any more Sauvignon Blanc but it does need more Chenin,” he added.

Vanderspuy’s Chenin has caught the eye of Chenin pioneer Ken Forrester, who buys the grapes Oldenburg doesn’t use to vinify at his own estate and sell on.

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