South Africa’s Elgin district is around an hour east of Cape Town. The climate is cool in this area, which was formerly best known for growing apples. These days, it’s also renowned for its wine. The Elgin Vintners are six growers who have combined their resources to produce a top notch product. The high-altitude setting, the dedication of the makers and the cooling winds that blow from the Atlantic come together to create excellent conditions for winemaking.
The six vintners seek to pool their resources to cultivate Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Shiraz, which tend to thrive in this cooler environment, where ripening happens later in the year than is the case elsewhere in South Africa.
The farm has existed since 1890, with the focus traditionally being on apples. Now, wine made with minimum intervention has taken over as the main business, although the picturesque setting also makes the estate a perfect location for family holidays and functions such as weddings.
One of the founders is Dr Max Hahn. His interest was piqued by the history of the Elgin Valley, and he was drawn to the idea of owning an orchard. However, a downturn in fortunes for the apple industry, rising concerns over global warming, and evidence that the area was perfect for winemaking made him switch his focus to grapes rather than apples.
His colleague James Rawbone-Viljoen explains the additional satisfaction derived from the Elgin Vintners business by pointing out that the harvest of apples or pears is the end of the process. In the case of grapes, it’s only the beginning, as the wine making is yet to come.
The newest shareholder in the business is Dr Marinda Kruger (pictured). She is a Master of Wine and joined the business after touring the world to learn her trade, including harvests in Australia and Europe. Her approach is to allow the process to evolve slowly and she lives by the belief that the wines Elgin Vintners are making will improve with age.
With that in mind, we have chosen three wines that already have several years of maturity. The first is the Merlot 2015 which is a plush product made from this grape. It combines flavours of plum, blackberry, and blueberry with distinctive notes of violet, cardamom and walnut that deliver a savoury finish.
The other red we offer is the Pinot Noir 2017 which is a perfect combination of fruit, tannin and acidity. There are cherries, strawberries and orange zest in the initial hit, and that’s followed by flowers and herbs for a balanced wine that we really enjoy on its own or with food.
The expertise of the Elgin Vintners is not confined to making tasty reds. We also enjoy the Chardonnay 2019 which brings together ripe citrus, marmalade and oatmeal. The finish is enhanced by a subtle spice that comes from the oak ageing process and means that the taste lingers on the palate for a delicious finish.
Lockdown was particularly tough for the wine industry in South African. We’re confident that the Elgin Vintners – and the other high-quality producers we use in that country – will emerge intact. We’ll certainly be drinking their wines!