Tierhoek Wines

TIERHOEK WINES…SOUTH AFRICA (Unique fines wines of Piekenierskloof, South Africa)      

Letha Oelz…please contact me at +27 (0) 83 283 9689 or oelzletha@gmail.com, thank you.

Company Profile

Welcome to Tierhoek, a distinguished farm of beauty and diversity. Situated high in the peaks (760m) of the Piekenierskloof Mountain, just on the border of the Cederberg. The farm flourishes due to cold, rainy winters and long, warm summers that are cooled down by afternoon Atlantic breezes.

The original Sandveld farm was restored by Tony and Shelley Sandell, and is now most renowned for its world-class wines. In addition, the endemic Buchu and Rooibos that grow here are the best that the area has to offer.

Tierhoek was established as a farm in 1886 and is one of the oldest surviving, original Sandveld farms on the West Coast of Africa. This 715ha farm was owned by the Marais family from 1886 to 2001, and is presently owned by Tony and Shelly Sandell.

The Sandells have restored the derelict buildings back into their original Sandveld style, including an old horse mill and horse cart saddlery. A cellar is also being built to accommodate for the 20ha of newly planted vines.


Tierhoek is ideally suited for vineyards.  The unique climate, soils and aspect all allow for premium wines that are characterised by intense fruit flavours, backed by subtle minerality and fresh acidity.

The flagship is the Chenin Blanc made from low yielding 30 year old trellised vines, which are barrel fermented in French Oak to express the full flavours of this variety, while maintaining complexity and elegance.

Some of these Chenin Blanc grapes are naturally dried off the vine for several weeks then barrel fermented in French Oak to produce Tierhoek straw wine.

Not to be outdone, the Sauvignon Blanc (unwooded) and Grenache Noir are some of the finest examples of their kind in South Africa.

All the Tierhoek wines benefit from ageing in the bottle.

The Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI) is a pioneering partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector. The goals are to minimise the further loss of threatened natural habitat, and to contribute to sustainable wine production, through the adoption of biodiversity guidelines by the South African wine industry.

Chenin Blanc
50 year old vines produces a full bodied wine overflowing with expression and flavour. 6 Months of old French oak add fullness and complexity to this mouth-watering wine, while the minerality and stone-fruit acidity provide a long lasting after taste.

Chardonnay                                                                                                                                          Lovely, delicate Chardonnay with a subtle citrus and baked apple palate that is rounded from a tiny portion of barrel aging, producing a soft creaminess with a roasted almond nougat finish.

Sauvignon Blanc
A fresh, lean style Sauvignon Blanc, focusing on minerality and elegance. Good balance between herbaceousness and fruit. Has great potential to age.
Syrah Grenache Mourvedre
A Syrah dominated blend complimented with Grenache and Mourvedre, made in a Mediterranean style. Fantastic on its own or paired with food, great balance and soft structure.
Grenache Noir
60 year old vines produce delicious, succulent uncomplicated wine made from the popular Spanish Variety. Soft expressions of wild berries and fynbos, with a delicate hint of spice, brushed with salty liquorice. Harmonious barrel integration. The stuff that put the Piekenierskloof on the map.
Straw Wine NV
This is  an unctuous wine that entices you from the first sniff to the long after taste of the last drop! 100% Chenin Blanc, from old vines, picked early then left to air dry for 2 weeks. The dried bunches are then pressed and fermented in old French oak barrels for up to 6 months. The result is an immense concentration of dried apricots and honey, while the equally concentrated acidity cuts through the sweetness to provide perfect balance. Great potential for ageing.


Tierhoek Wines (Unique fines wines of Piekenierskloof, South Africa)


Email: oelzletha@gmail.com

Sales Agent: Letha Oelz

Mobile: +27 (0) 83 283 9689

Cellar tastings by appointment only.

Copyrighted 2018 – 2019 / All Rights Reserved Tierhoek Wines


History of Oak Barrels and how they are used at Tierhoek

History Lesson. The oak wine barrel is one of the most recognizable symbols associated with wine. We have romanticized the barrel and the act of aging wine inside of it to such a degree, that after the barrels have been used for their intended purpose we often turn them into tables, benches, planters and even candle holders. Yet the reason we began aging wine in oak barrels in the first place was not intentional, but the result of a happy accident. For millennia, the clay amphora was the storage medium of choice for transporting wine.

Over two millennia ago, when the Romans began to spread their empire across the globe, they not only wanted to take with them weapons and food, but also wine. Wine was safer to drink than water, it provided calories to malnourished troops, and of course it provided its imbiber with an intoxicating buzz. For a few thousand years, starting with the ancient Egyptians, clay amphorae were the way armies (and traders) transported wine over long distances. There were other civilizations, primarily in the Mesopotamian region, who used palm wood barrels, but this was the exception, not the rule. While palm wood barrels weighed far less than clay amphorae, palm wood was quite difficult to bend. Clay offered another advantage in that it was airtight if sealed properly, though this was quite a challenge.

The practice of using amphorae continued in the Greek and then the Roman Empire. As the Romans pushed north into Europe, and away from the Mediterranean, transporting the clay amphorae grew increasingly difficult. While the Romans were aware of palm wood barrels, the price and difficulty of bending the wood made them a poor choice. When the Romans encountered the Gaul’s, they found a group of people who were using wooden barrels, often made of oak, to transport beer.

The Romans quickly realized they had found a solution to their amphora issue. While other woods were used, oak was popular for a number of reasons. First, the wood was much softer and easier to bend into the traditional barrel shape than palm wood, thus the oak only needed minimal toasting and a barrel could be created much faster. Second, oak was abundant in the forests of continental Europe. And finally, oak, with its tight grain, offered a waterproof storage medium. The transition to wooden barrels was swift. In less than two centuries, tens of millions of amphorae were discarded.

After transporting their wines in barrels, for some time, the Romans and other societies after them, began to realize that the oak barrels imparted new, pleasant qualities to the wine. The contact with the wood made the wine softer and smoother, and with some wines, it also made it better tasting. Due to the minimal toasting of the wood, wines developed additional scents such as cloves, cinnamon, allspice or vanilla, and when drunk they had additional flavors present, such as caramel, vanilla or even butter. As the practice of using oak barrels for transport continued, merchants, wine producers, and armies alike, found that the longer the wine remained inside the barrels, the more qualities from the oak would be imparted into the wine, and thus began the practice of aging wine in oak.

Oak is used in winemaking to vary the color, flavor, tannin profile and texture of wine. It can be introduced in the form of a barrel during the fermentation or aging periods, or as free-floating chips or staves added to wine fermented in a vessel like stainless steel. Oak barrels can impart other qualities to wine through evaporation and low level exposure to oxygen.

Many wines can benefit from coming in contact with oak. Oak can enhance the color of the wine, soften and round out flavors, and impart its own unique characteristics. Almost all red wines and many white wines spend time in oak barrels before being bottled, and that’s just because winemakers have found they taste better that way.

We like to think of a winemaker using oak as a chef would use salt, you use a little or a lot to either just slightly bring out other flavors, or to have the oak’s own characteristics play a more prominent role. However, just as a chef can use too much salt in a dish, so to can a winemaker use too much oak in a wine. If all you taste is the characteristics of the oak, instead of the fruit, we say the wine is not balanced. If you drink a wine that tastes like liquid butter, that wine has way too much oak.

So how do you recognize when a wine has been oaked? When a wine sits in oak to age, the oak slowly imparts its flavors and colors into the wine. If this is a white wine, the longer the wine sits in oak, the darker a yellow it will become, almost mimicking the hue of straw. If the wine is red, color is not affected as much, but often the longer the wine sits in oak, the darker red it can become.

In terms of flavors, living inside oak is a compound known as vanillin, which as the name suggests, tastes like vanilla. When a wine sits in oak for a long time, that compound leaves the wood and transfers into the wine, which is why many white wines, especially Chardonnay, can have such prominent vanilla flavors. Other flavors that can be enhanced by oak are mocha, caramel, toffee or honey.

If it’s still unclear how much oak can affect a wine, here’s a great side-by-side tasting you can do. Purchase a Chardonnay that has been aged in oak and one that has been unoaked (aged in steel). Pour both wines into glasses and try one after the other. In the unoaked wine you will taste the fruit prominently and there will be more acidity present, it will taste “fresher” (sometimes winemakers will say a unoaked wine is naked). In the oaked wine the fruit will still be present, but it won’t be as bright and crisp, instead it will be in balance with other flavors, such as vanilla and spices. It will also have a fuller mouthfeel.

If you find you don’t like wines with a lot of oak, especially white wines, a general rule is that California wines, especially those that are mass-produced, tend to over-oak more than other regions of the world. Avoid those and you’ll find wines that are balanced and delicious, benefiting from oak’s influence and characteristics.

Hint: Over-Oak Wine

If you find you don’t like wines with a lot of oak, especially white wines, a general rule is that California wines, especially those that are mass-produced, tend to over-oak more than other regions of the world.

The porous nature of an oak barrel allows evaporation and oxygenation to occur in wine but typically not at levels that would cause oxidation or spoilage. The typical 59-gallon (225-liter) barrel can lose anywhere from 5 1⁄2 to 6 1⁄2 gallons (21 to 25 liters) (of mostly alcohol and water) in a year through evaporation. This allows the wine to concentrate its flavor and aroma compounds. Small amounts of oxygen are allowed to pass through the barrel and act as a softening agent upon the wine’s tannins.

The chemical properties of oak can have a profound effect on wine. Phenols within the wood interact to produce vanilla type flavors and can give the impression of tea notes or sweetness. The degree of “toast” on the barrel can also impart different properties affecting the tannin levels as well as the aggressive wood flavors. The hydrolyzable tannins present in wood, known as ellagitannins, are derived from lignin structures in the wood. They help protect the wine from oxidation and reduction.

Wines can be barrel fermented in oak or placed in oak after fermentation for a period of aging or maturation. Wine matured in oak receives more oak flavors and properties than wine fermented in oak because yeast cells present in fermentation interact with and “latch on” to oak components. When dead yeast cells are removed as lees some oak properties go with them.

Characteristics of white wines fermented in oak include a pale color and extra silky texture. White wines fermented in steel and matured in oak will have a darker coloring due to heavy phenolic compounds still present. Flavor notes commonly used to describe wines exposed to oak include caramel, cream, smoke, spice and vanilla. Chardonnay is a varietal with very distinct flavor profiles when fermented in oak, which include coconut, cinnamon and cloves notes. The “toastiness” of the barrel can bring out varying degrees of mocha and toffee notes in red wine.

The length of time a wine spends in the barrel is dependent on the varietal and finished style the winemaker desires. The majority of oak flavoring is imparted in the first few months the wine is in contact with oak, while longer term exposure adds light barrel aeration, which helps precipitate phenolic compounds and quickens the aging process. New World Pinot noir may spend less than a year in oak. Premium Cabernet Sauvignon may spend two years. The very tannic Nebbiolo grape may spend four or more years in oak. High end Rioja producers will sometimes age their wines up to ten years in American oak to get a desired earthy cedar and herbal character.

Sources, References & Credits: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Wine Pair, Dumb Dog Productions, Bruce Bisbey, Pinterest, Tierhoek Wines, Shelley Sandell, Ryno Kellerman, Wine Enthusiast, Webstaurant Store

Wine Tasting and Wine photo / Photo Credit: Tierhoek Farms – Shelley Sandell

Tierhoek Piekenierskloof South Africa Label / Photo Credit: Tierhoek Farm

Diagram of an Oak Barrel / Photo Credit: Schematic Wiring Diagram – Cosmetic Express – Wikipedia

The red band on some wine barrels is the residue of spilt red wine / Photo Credit: Agne27 – Wikipedia

Barrel Sizes / Photo Credit: Enoviti Hanumangirl – Google – Wikipedia

Tierhoek Chenin Blanc / Photo Credit: Tierhoek Wines