Just learnt that the man behind Stellenbosch winery Delheim and doyen of the industry, Michael “Spatz” Sperling celebrates his 80th birthday on Monday 19 July 2010.
Sperling arrived in South Africa in 1951 to help Hans Hoheisen, husband of his mother’s cousin Del, with the farming of the property originally known as De Driesprong and later renamed Delheim (“Del’s home”). In due course, Sperling acquired the farm outright and it remains a family affair to this day with son Victor currently viticulturist and daughet Nora Thiel in marketing.
Sperling has been always been an industry pioneer, perhaps most famously being involved with the late Frans Malan of Simonsig and the late Sydney Back of Backsberg, in devising the Stellenbosch Wine Route, established in 1972.
It is also remarkable how many top winemakers have passed under his tutelage, these including Josef Krammer (previously of Eikendal and now retired), Kevin Arnold (Waterford), Jeff Grier (Villiera), Phillip Costandius (Solo), Chris Keet (previously of Cordoba), Kevin Grant (Atraxia), Martin Meinert and Conrad Vlok (Strandveld).
It seems I celebrated Sperling’s birthday a bit prematurely when I opened a bottle of Spatzendreck Late Harvest 2008 (made from Chenin Blanc and bearing the famous “pooping sparrow” label) to drink while watching Spain dash Dutch hopes in the World Cup final this past Sunday.