Wine is synonymous with the Elgin Valley. While only a blip on the radar compared to the deciduous fruit industry, Elgin wines have made a significant impact on the international stage. Elgin dominates local competitions, revered for its competitive advantage producing elegant white as well as red wine. Since the first Wine of Origin Elgin saw the light in 1990, a remarkable wine tourism industry unfolded in this beautiful and lush little Valley, now bursting at the seams with wineries offering accommodation, tasting facilities, wedding venues, restaurants, and sporting events.
Here is a guide to help you tailor-make a wine tasting experience to suits your needs.
STRICTLY COME WINING
Almenkerk Wine Estate: This is a winery that will appeal to both art and wine lovers, albeit wine remains the centre of attraction. It is owned by the Belgian Van Almenkerk family, who follow a very natural approach in the cellar and consistently produce outstanding quality. Their Merlot is testimony to this. Their modern winery presents the perfect photographic opportunity for a selfie.
Highlands Road Estate: If you love a good Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, you will linger longer at this wine farm. Acquired by Port Elizabeth attorney Michael White in 2004, the wines have been a roaring success on many podiums.
Iona Vineyards: When you think you cannot go higher and deeper into the Elgin Valley, you will reach the iconic Iona. Former engineer turned farmer, Andrew Gunn acquired a run-down apple farm in 1997 and converted it to vineyard. Visitors walk into a realm of art that set a high bar for extraordinary and authentic wines, especially Chardonnay.
Richard Kershaw Wines: Richard Kershaw is one of only two revered Masters of Wine resident in South Africa. His instinctive understanding of the vineyards and the intrinsic personality of wines produced here have earned him enormous success with his portfolio. His wine can be tasted by appointment only, but it’s worth the extra planning and effort.
Shannon Vineyards: This family-owned farm, situated on the misty banks of the Palmiet River, reflect meticulous attention to detail in both their farming and cellar practices. Nobody is as personally invested in his vineyards as James Downes. His understanding of both fruit and wine grape production has earned Shannon Wines a rock-solid reputation for wines that are both superb and as ethereal as the swirling mists on the river. Tastings are by appointment only.
Charles Fox Cap Classique Wines: Meet the Methode Cape Classique-house of the Valley, home to fine, exquisite sparkling wine. Charles and Zelda Fox bought the property in 2005 with the vision to create world-class MCC. Using only Champagne varieties and advised by French consultant Nicolas Follet, they have undoubtably achieved their goal as one of South Africa’s leading MCC specialists.
Oneiric Wines: Not all that glitters is gold. The Pascal family’s involvement in copper mining led to the mineral-themed labels. Their vineyards, apple and olive orchards, picturesque dams, and enchanting picnic area add an extra sparkle to their offering. Your wine tasting will be hosted in their Button Barn, which also showcases Jenny Pacal’s ceramic button project.
SIP AND CYCLE
Paul Cluver Estate Wines: Fruit farming pioneer since 1896, the Cluver family also excel in winemaking. More recently their mountain biking trails have become immensely popular. The newly renovated tasting room furnished with wooden tables crafted by Dr Cluver himself offer an inviting space to relax and explore their world-famous wines. Famous for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, we recommend you also try their Riesling.
Oak Valley Estate: Founded in 1898 by Sir Antonie Viljoen, his great-great-grandson Christopher is at the helms of this diverse enterprise encompassing apples, pears, berries, wine, cut flowers, cattle and pigs. As the name suggests, the farm is shaded with hundreds of oak trees, but it is their wines (and mountain bike trails) that attract visitors to their farm. Their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines are as attractive as their Sounds of Silence Sauvignon Blanc.
SIP AND STAY FOR ONE MORE DAY
Elgin Vintners: The story and history of Elgin Vintners runs so deep that one needs to plan an extended visit as part of a weekend excursion. The wines are performing exceptionally well with winemaker and shareholder Marinda Kruger-Claassen at the helm. With a great diversity from rosé to Syrah, they offer different tasting experiences. The newly renovated four-star Elgin Vintners Country House, set in magnificent gardens, makes for the perfect romantic getaway or wedding venue.
South Hill Vineyards: Wine tourism at its best, the King family are rooted in a strong tradition of hospitality. Arguably one of the best breakfasts and lunch stops, their versatile wines complement authentic country style dining. While the Pump House and Houseboat are more romantic, the Guest House is a luxurious option for a group of friends or a wedding party. Kevin and Sandy King’s hand-on and experienced approach will ensure that your South Hill wedding will seamlessly transform into your perfect wedding and a day that will remain firmly etched in the minds of your guests. The South Hill Rosé will add a touch of romance, whilst their Cabernet Sauvignon is just perfect for a chilly winters evening.
Paul Wallace Wines: Paul and Nicky Wallace have created a little oasis for wine lovers and those searching for a place to breathe in fresh country air. Their focussed wine offering, including the much-acclaimed Black Dog Malbec, speaks of viticulturist Paul’s understanding of the expression of terroir. Nicky’s abundant roses, the lure of large mouth bass in the dam and the joyful wagging of their dogs’ tails are just some the appealing attractions luring you to book a stay in their quaint cottages. P.S: Don’t miss out on the chocolate and wine pairing!
Lothian Vineyards: This is as luxurious as it gets in the beautiful Elgin Valley. The setting is unsurpassed, poised on the banks of the Palmiet River and Applethwaite Dam. Their wines live up to the opulence: the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir reminiscent of Burgundian charm. Here the Wilson family has established modern hospitality while still honouring the natural surrounds. This is the perfect setting for an intimate wedding or celebratory weekend.
WINE AND WONDERLUST
Although the wine brands listed below have their home cellars outside the Elgin Valley, they produce extraordinary wines from grapes sourced from within Elgin. We embrace them as a part of the Wine of Origin Elgin legacy.
Neil Ellis was the first to release a wine officially demarcated as “Wine of Origin Elgin” in 1990 and make great wines from Elgin grapes. The Whitehall Chardonnay is a case in point.
Vrede en Lust in Paarl recognised the quality of grapes produced in the Elgin Valley and acquired the farm called Casey’s Ridge in 2005. The majority if their white grapes hail from this property.
The Boschendal Appellation Series is produced from Elgin grapes. They too have purchased a farm in Elgin and are committed to producing their premium Elgin Series of cool-climate styled wines.
Watch out for the wines from Moya Meaker, crafted in memory of the original Moya Meaker, crowned Miss South Africa in 1959. The wines are elegant and expressive. A newly built cellar will be commissioned in time for the 2021 harvest.
In the early 2000’s Gyles Webb of Thelema, Stellenbosch, purchased an Elgin property. Today they produce exceptional and award-winning wines from the Elgin Valley under the Sutherland label.
The IDUN range of wines are the brainchild of Albert Rousset, resident of Mauritius. Albert identified Elgin and the cool-climate profile of the resultant wines as perfectly suited to the balmy climes of Mauritius.
10 Quick Elgin Wine Facts
Ever wondered what the secret is to wines from Elgin? Now that this tiny region is making such a significant impact on the international wine stage, here is a pocket guide to understanding the wines if you are planning a visit to the Elgin Valley
- Elgin was declared a ward of the greater Overberg district in 1990 and then declared a district in 2011.
- Situated 70km south-east of Cape Town with 6400ha planted to apples, 1500ha grown to pears with less than 750ha under vine; the Elgin Valley forms an inland plateau, naturally defined by the surrounding mountains.
- Elevations range from 260-600 meters above sea level, and parent soils include Table Mountain Sandstone and Bokkeveld Shale.
- Elgin is rated as Region 2 on the Winkler Scale, making it one of the coolest wine-producing areas in South Africa.
- The cool climate allows the fruit longer hang time which in turn facilitates phenolic ripeness without losing freshness.
- Identifying characteristics of Elgin wines are higher natural acidities, lower pHs, fruit purity, and an underlying minerality (salty core)
- The mean temperature is February is 19.7°C.
- The prevailing summer south-east wind drapes its clouds over the surrounding mountains reducing temperatures and protecting grapes from sunburn.
- One of our most significant plus factors is a scientific phenomenon known as diurnal temperature fluctuation, meaning there is a substantial difference between daytime and night-time temperatures. Invariably the summer nighttime temperatures will be 15°C or lower.
- The average annual rainfall is 1011mm, predominantly in winter but with some rainfall in the summer months.