Farm and Philosophy
The valley that the winery is located in is almost crater like, surrounded by a craggy fringe of mountains and the vineyard is on a plateau never below 200m above sea level. Temperatures in the valley about 3 degrees lower, on average, than in surrounding areas, and the valley often funnels cooling sea breezes from the Atlantic a few kilometres away.
The ground and terroir at Spioenkop is dominated by various soil types originating from weathered ‘bokkeveld’ shale and iron-rich ‘ferricreet’ cobblestones, which in some vineyards include a mix of clay soils with a high water retention capacity. Due to the climate and the steep inclines, there is a good flow of rainwater through the soils and shales, which are characterised by fossils and mineral deposits that contribute to the style of wines from the farm. Each of the grape varieties at Spioenkop are planted on different soils chosen for their particular properties. Life isn’t easy for the vines, and that’s just how the winemaker likes it – plenty of stones and grit in the upper layers and deep, porous clay in the sub-soils being characteristic of the Côte de Nuits in Burgundy, France. The vines are planted close together within each row, which Koen feels is crucial for the production of marvellous wines. “Competition with their neighbours helps the vines to stay healthy and results in wines that have a deep colour and matching complexity.”
On average, the annual rainfall on Spioenkop is around 800mm, which is probably the lowest in the valley, and the steep slopes facilitate good drainage. Add to this the windy, cold conditions and you have vineyards that are less prone to fungi and which are better suited to organic farming practices.
Their winemaking philosophy is based on low intervention and giving their wines a voice without the interference of technology or an overbearing winemaker. Biodynamic principles have been adopted, though they have not sought certification. Their winemaker, Koen Roose, wants a vineyard in rude health, dry farmed and untrammelled by artificial fertiliser, pesticides and herbicides. Vineyards where working on foot and by hand are the order of the day. They call it balance: ‘balance in the wines, balance in the winery and balance in the terroir’. Koen is obsessive about the relationship of his vines with the environment and the work that he has done and continues to do to get the best from them.
Winemaker Koen Roose is a former sommelier and ex-engineer, originally from Belgium, and freely admits to being a bit crazy… He has exactly the right attitude to make iconic wine: disregard what anyone else thinks, show passion and determination, and let the vines do the talking.
His aim is to produce elegant wines that are sexy and pure, but at the same time unique or “a little wild even”. In other words, squeaky clean is not for Koen. Personality is important and at Spioenkop, whether it’s to do with his atypical vineyard plantings or the combination of Old and New World in his boutique wine cellar, Koen manages to bring the best out of his grapes.
He honed his winemaking skills under mentors like Francois Naudé from L’Avenir in Stellenbosch, mastering the art of creating a wine that carries finesse. His award winning Pinotage wines are cited as a homage to his mentor. He also worked the vines at Tokara Wine Estate and Chantal Lescure in Burgundy, learning the best of Old and New World techniques.
Spioenkop Wines offer three ranges: Spioenkop Range, “1900” Range, and Tugela River Range.
If you prefer a wine with a mineral quality made in a simple and elegant way, you should go for the Spioenkop range. All Spioenkop wines are made from grapes coming 100% from the Spioenkop Estate. A fine dining style of wine that reflects the cool climate region of Elgin. The star of the wine list.
The “1900” wines are their “alternative” label, with a fuller, rich and more tropical style. The “1900” range is also created with 100% grapes grown on the Spioenkop farm in the Elgin valley.
Tugela River Range is a very special range, one incredibly close to the winemakers heart. The wines are created with sommeliers and chefs in mind, reflecting the heart of Elgin. Perfect to serve by the glass or to create an exquisite menu around. A wonderful addition, creating depth and variety in the Spioenkop wine range.
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