Thursday, October 24, 2019

Delheim celebrates and remembers 80 years

A joyous celebration at Delheim this week to  celebrate the 80th year since the Hoheisen family bought the farm in 1939. Michael Hans “Spatz” Sperling came to the Cape from Germany in 1951. He joined his uncle Hans Hoheisen and his aunt Del on the Delheim farm, where he started to experiment with wine making, eventually adding to his knowledge by consulting with established winemakers. His first wine, Spatzendreck, a natural sweet, was tasted by a friend who pronounced it “dreck”. He bottled it with a picture of a sparrow relieving itself on the label and it has been a favourite dessert wine for many aficionados ever since. Sperling is the German word for Sparrow and Spatz is the colloquial equivalent

Scattered around the farm were some great memories of Spatz Sperling
This was his study
and some historic winemaking equipment
Spatzendreck through the ages and old wines found in the cellar. Some had been opened for us to taste
1940s Hanepoot in a brandy bottle
During the Second World War, bottles were in short supply, so many kinds of bottles were recycled for bottling wine 
There were also platters of food for us to eat while tasting
One of the historic foudres in the cellar. While these were used years ago, they do seem to be back in fashion
as younger winemakers are beginning to appreciate their qualities
They have beautiful carving on them. The white wines we could taste were the 1990 Spatzendreck, lovely floral nose, dryer than expected; it has notes of honey muscat on the palate and finished dry. The 1990 Edelspatz Riesling Noble Late Harvest is dark sherry brown, has a lovely classic NLH nose with honey and spice and, on the palate, the expected sweet, spicy enjoyable flavours. The current 2018 vintage of the Edelspatz has spicy honey & hot notes on the nose, clean on the palate. It is not as sweet as the nose leads one to expect and is absolutely delicious, well balanced sugar and acid with length and class
The 2005 Cabernet has intense berry fruit and forest floor on the nose with a touch of brett (brettanomyces), it is full of cassis and freshness, impressive. The 2007 Grand Reserve also had a touch of brett (there is a theory that it keeps wine alive) with cassis berry freshness but aging fast. Still has the required elements of fruit, acid, tannins and alcohol. The 1990 Pinotage had dark wood, chocolate, sour cherries, dark berries and coffee. The 2012 Vera Cruz Pinotage is showing its Pinot parent face with very lovely raspberry and strawberry fruit, length and depth, minerality and warmth. Impressive. The 2015 Grand Reserve Bordeaux blend is a classic with lots of the berry fruits on the nose and palate in layers with incense wood and good minerality. It is soft on the palate initially, then the berries come to the fore with cassis and mushrooms and dark toast, so satisfying. The older style Grand Reserve 1986 has incense wood, and forest floor on the nose and has cassis and spice notes but is ageing fast
An early Delheim "Burgundy type" Pinotage
And a modern day crisp Blanc de Blanc Cap Classique Brut to celebrate the day
Victor Sperling, the son of Spatz who manages Delheim, and Mike Bampfield Duggan of Wine Concepts
Vera Sperling, Spatz' widow and PRO Leanne Sutherland 
Peter Bishop showing us the old wines that he found in a boarded up part of the cellar,
probably made by the previous owners in the early 1940s
Vera Sperling and Peter Bishop having fun with the old wines
A clever way to show the anniversary
The older sweet wines on ice for tasting
Vin Ordinaire!
A welcome by Victor Sperling
Two long tables set for lunch
were arranged between the old concrete kuipe (wine fermentation tanks)
A great photograph of the family, taken when Nora and Victor were young
Victor Sperling (wearing Paps's hat) started the speeches in which everyone spoke about their time on the farm and life with Spatz. It was very amusing. He gave us a story about when Jeff Grier of Villiera applied to work there. Spatz asked him: "Why didn't you join your Dad on his chicken farm? "You can't a have a chicken tasting!" was Jeff's reply. He told us that Josef Krammer was the first winemaker and Otto Helmer (who has returned to Europe), the second. Then Kevin Arnold, (whose wife is also famous for making the first cheese platter to be served on a wine farm). Heerenwyn was the first white blended wine made in the Cape
The memories must have been quite emotional for Vera Sperling
Nora Sperling-Thiel told us about growing up with her father. This day two years ago, 15th October 2017, was the date of the death of Spatz Sperling (1930-2017), a man who stomped on snobbery, had a strong personality and no PR ability; he called a spade a shovel
And to commemorate this occasion, they have bottled a very special wine. They are calling the wine Iconoclast, which means a person who attacks cherished beliefs, an image breaker. Spatz always said "Keep things simple or you F... it up!" It is a Cape Blend packed in a linen bag with a bow tie. 2 100 bottles to be released this year only, a one off vintage in memory of Spatz Sperling, who broke so many barriers in the wine industry. They have capped each bottle with a bow tie and we were each gifted one
We tasted the wine with lunch and it is extremely good. It is a blend of 45% Shiraz, 30% Pinotage, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot. Lynne knows that Spatz would hate her description; the wine reeks of sophistication and quality. It has good wood, beautiful fruit in layers and keeps on surprising you as you drink it. The Cabernet shines, the shiraz softens and enlivens and there are hints of violets from the Petit Verdot. There are tight firm tannins, but not puckering, and coffee mocha on the end. A special food wine, it has the bones to last. Victor said that when they made it they didn't really know what they would get; they wanted something to drink now but also to last.  They have succeeded 
The main course was a superb Springbok fillet in a green pepper and cream sauce, on mashed potato, served with vegetables. It was so well prepared, as the chef insisted on cooking them all à la minute, so the meat was perfectly pink and tender. He said that if you leave meat like this under a heat lamp it overcooks, goes dry and tough
A friend of Victor, economist Kobus Venter, spoke about his memories of Delheim, the family and the wines
Roelof Lotrief is the current winemaker
Christopher Keet, who was an "assistant winemaker" and went on to a very successful career
Kevin Arnold was also employed by Spatz from 1979 to 1987 as an assistant winemaker and he has also gone on to have huge success at Waterford. Kevin told us that he studied agriculture at Elsenberg. As he was not from the Western Cape, Elsenberg wouldn't let him study wine(!), but he then discovered wine, followed his nose and studied winemaking. He was meant to start work with Stellenbosch Farmers Winery when was called by Spatz and told to apply for the job as his Assistant Winemaker. He took over as wine maker when Otto Helmer left and Jeff Grier became his assistant. In 1981 they made the first Grand Reserve. Then he was joined by Martin Meinert. A succession of men who became renowned winemakers. In those years, three Stellenbosch farms dominated: Neighbours Uitkyk, Muratie and Delheim, who sold direct to the public. He reminded us that in those days a case of 12 Grand Reserve cost R10, but then you were earning R350 a month! 
Norma Ratcliffe, a neighbour at Warwick estate, where her husband Stan farmed fruit. She was mentored by Kevin and by Spatz in the early days of her winemaking at Warwick. Spatz was brutally honest and told her, "you are not allowed to make bad wine, it will reflect badly on the valley". They were wonderful neighbours and Norma said that the family backbone is Vera Sperling; she is a marketing genius
Vera Sperling thanked everyone for the tributes and the memories
She has some great memories of those times and of Spatz
Time for dessert. This is a chocolate mousse made with avocado
And a classic baked cheesecake. There were also chocolate dipped strawberries
Three winemakers: Kevin Arnold, Roelof Lotrief and Chris Keet
And the presentation bottles for us to take home. We love the bow ties and are sure they will be worn with pride at prestigious Black Tie wine events.
The Sperling family poses together

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