Wine Diary: Elgin Winter Wine Festival – a cool (climate) celebration

In early June I received a surprise wine drop from none other than Elgin Ridge Wines.

Ok, truth be told, I received an email from their PR people telling me about this really delicious Pinot Noir and I thought “Hell no, I cannot ‘taste’ an email, I have to get a bottle”, so I hastily emailed back and said: “Please send me a bottle of this apparently brilliant wine and, if it’s good I’ll do a shoutout on Instagram, and, if it’s rubbish then, well….I won’t.”

Turns out someone thought I was not too cocky and so proceeded to wrap, pack and dispatch a bottle of the Elgin Ridge 282 Pinot Noir 2016 to none other than me, @worldwinewanderings.

Turns out this little cool climate Elgin wine is delicious, and so, reader, I instagrammed it!

I love wine. I love the complexity of the process that is masked in perceived simplicity.

From the lush green rows of vineyards that are mesmerizingly spaced, making sense of everything in my head, to the choice of pruning method in preparation for tiny green buds of hope, holding promise for the following years production…

The many hands that nurture and harvest every bunch of perfectly ripened berries while gathering blisters and boils as row upon row are relieved of their bounty.

Then, the pressing process, which considers how the berry needs to be subtly crushed to maintain the order of things, letting its’ juice free flow to be stored in stainless steel for a brief time while the winemaker plots the birth of a notable vintage.

Then come the intricacies of oak or egg or blending or single varietal.

And back to earth, or should I say terroir!

The winemakers I have met are passionate explorers of the process of making wine, so I was really pleased, when I learnt from my ‘peach’ that we were soon to be visiting Elgin for their Winter Festival.

Epic.

I sent a message to Elgin Ridge on Instagram immediately to say I would be keen to pop round for a wine tasting while in the area and I was warmly embraced, so to speak, and told to chat to Kosie when we arrived.

Down the drive, sauntering into the tasting room we were greeted by a warm youngster who gestured for us to take a seat at the table. A few tastings down we waved off the other visitors (or intruders as I call them), and resumed the tasting with a cellar tour.

A neat little cellar which contained both concrete egg and amphora for experimental purposes, we sampled as Kosie expounded on his vision for the Elgin Ridge wines. A biodynamic wine farm they are focused on organic farming methods and are only one of two certified biodynamic wine producers in South Africa.

The cool complexity of his character was so evident in the wines he passionately produces and it was a privilege to meet and spend time with this talented young winemaker.

Just before leaving he gifted me with a bottle of 2018 Cabernet Franc which he produced for his own wedding. I do love a good Cab Franc, and this wedding wine was delicious!

That evening our family braved the icy cold wind to attend the Elgin Winter Wine Fair hosted at the Elgin Railway Market. My wife tells me I am sensory sensitive, which basically means too much noise and too many people drives me mad, so good thing the wine was flowing (in a responsible kind of way!)

I learnt a lot about the cool climate wines produced in the area. Some lovely Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and some red blends from the likes of Almenkerk, Paul Wallace, Oak Valley, Paul Cluver, Elgin Vintners, Lothian Vineyards, South Hill, Iona and Highlands Road Estate.

All in all a great evening.

A crisp Sunday morning greeted us with a trip to Almenkerk located on the hills of the Elgin Valley. We were warmly greeted by the resident dog barking excitedly at the sight of the kids wandering up the path to the tasting room.

Natalie (one of the owners of this beautiful space) proceeded to follow the alarm and welcomed us into the tasting room.

Barely awake, I chugged down a quick coffee before sampling the magic of Almenkerk. Natalie, a Belgian, had an infectious positivity about South Africa, and the opportunity that their family has to produce great wines and involve the community of workers that have been with the farm since before the beginning.

In contrast to my recent negativity about the country (given the craziness that is South Africa) it was refreshing to hear the unconditional love for South Africa!

Their range of wine was recently extended to the new Lace Collection, taking inspiration from Belgian Lace, which includes a Sauvignon Blanc, Rose and Vineyard Selection (Red Blend).

For starters, their Sauvignon Blanc 2018, displaying a crisp clean palate of guava and lime, then moving onto their single-vineyard Flagship Sauvignon Blanc to compare. Stunningly smooth with a soft acidity and subtle green notes.

The highlight for me was their Flagship Merlot, grown from French clones, this beauty showed a smokey plumb and light tanin. Magic, even at noon! 🙂

Late for our next session of liquid libation, we raced up and over to Iona for our vertical tasting at noon. We just made it in one of those fashionable, burst open the door while everyone is listening to the winemaker explain something crucial kind of way!!!

We slunk in our seats and embraced the moment!

Bobby Wallace, the assistant winemaker from Iona, was hosting this afternoons vertical tasting of Sauvignon Blanc. Starting at 2018 all the way down to 2008. My first vertical tasting, it was fascinating to see the change that age brings to a bottle of wine. Hopefully I age this well too!

Next time I need to taste some of their reds!!

Elgin is a beautiful, often never explored, gem. The cool climate wines on offer are varied and stunning. This region is well worth a day trip, or better yet, a weekend away. At only an hour’s drive from Cape Town it’s a great option for both!

Cheers.

Brad Rossiter
Brad Rossiter

Enjoying the pleasures of good food, family, friends and wine, always wine!

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