Belgian husband-and-wife team Koen and Lore Roose own the farm that they have named after the hill in KwaZuluNatal that was the scene of one of the bloodiest defeats of the Boer War for the British Army. Their vineyards lie in the Western Cape region of the Elgin Valley where the temperature is milder, indeed cooler, than many parts of South Africa.
The valley is almost crater like, surrounded by a craggy fringe of mountains and the vineyard is on a plateau where nowhere is below 200m above sea level. Temperatures here are about 3 degrees lower, as an average, than surrounding areas, and the valley often funnels cooling sea breezes from the Atlantic a few kilometres away. The geography and the climate mean that rainwater is retained in the clay soils mixed with iron-rich ferricreet cobbles and shales, and it is in these nutrient poor soils that the vines are planted at a high density to help with the control of yields. Low yields are de rigeur at Spioenkop and a lot of work is done in the vineyard to ensure that they stay that way.
The winemaking philosophy here is low intervention and allowing the wine to have a voice without putting technology and an interfering winemaker in the way. Biodynamic principles have been adopted though they have not sought certification. The Rooses want a vineyard in rude health, dry farmed and untrammelled by artificial fertiliser, pesticides and herbicides and 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.