Elegantly Elgin Wine Route launches

 

Wine estates of the Elgin Valley are fortifying their strengths as they prepare to launch an official wine route on the 6th – 7th  October. The wine route aptly named, Elegantly Elgin, will provide the opportunity for visitors and  wine lovers to regularly experience the superior and complex structured wines synonymous with this district.

With a wealth of medals and acclaimed awards from  local and international wine fraternities behind them,  the Elgin Valley wine producers have entered the final straight in forming an official Wine Route. The route is set to take flight through a concept called “Open Wine Weekends”, where once a month sixteen wine estates will open their cellar doors to wine lovers to fully experience all the Elgin wine has to offer. Cellars will be creating an experiential weekend around wine during these open wine weekends with a focus on specific varietals each month. The estates will run normal operations for the remaining part of the month.

Monthly Themed campaigns:

6 -7 October: Flagship Wines – Celebration of Cool Climate Wines
3 -4 November and 10 – 11 November: A Sauvignon Blanc Celebration
open for 2 weekends to coincide with Open Gardens
1 -2 December: A Chardonnay Celebration
5-6 January: Elegantly Elgin Whites (aromatic blends)

During  Varietal themed months –  i.e.  In November the theme will be Sauvignon Blanc wines from the area, we will highlight the best  cellar doors to visit for consumers who are specifically looking for superior Sauvignon Blanc wines in that month. All wineries will have their full range available for tastings, as the varietal themed month is an added benefit to our visitor experience.

The members range from our famous historic estates, frequently publicised, to a growing number of new estates, who together have all contributed towards strengthening Elgin’s offering and placed us firmly on the wine route map. The Sixteen Estates are in alphabetical order: Almenkerk ; Arumdale ; Elgin Ridge; Elgin Vintners; Hannay & Catherine Marshall Wines; Highlands Road Wines, Iona Vineyards; Lothian Wines; Mofam Wines ;Oak Valley Wines; Oude Molen Brandy Distillery; Paul Cluver Wines; Shannon Vineyards; Spioenkop Wine; South Hill Wines; Winters Drift

The Elgin Wine Weekend is the perfect way to experience wines of the valley  and discover why this region  is fast becoming a most celebrated wine-producing area of the Cape.  Here, acclaimed vines benefit from diverse soils and cool maritime breezes which ensure perfect conditions for slow ripening. This allows the grapes to develop their intense flavours, great natural acidity, complexity and strong core of elegance. The wines are predominantly fruity and Sauvignon Blanc, Rhine Riesling, Pinot Noir and Shiraz fare particularly well in this region.

We invite you to join us and enjoy the hospitality as the estates display the fruits of their labour. It is a celebration of the distinctive flavours from the district. Come and enjoy the classic expressions of Elgin Wine.

For more detailed  information on the open wine weekends please log onto www.elginwine.co.za
Come and meet the people behind the wines of Elgin and drink in our passion.

Establishing the ELEGANTLY ELGIN WINE ROUTE as a designation for wine lovers.

Founding Members, in alphabetical order, Almenkerk ; Arumdale ; Elgin Ridge ;Elgin Vintners; Hannay & Catherine Marshall Wines; Highlands Road Wines, Iona Vineyards; Lothian Wines; Mofam Wines ;Oak Valley Wines; Oude Molen Brandy Distillery; Paul Cluver Wines; Shannon Vineyards; Spioenkop Wine; South Hill Wines; Winters Drift

Event Details:
Event Name: Elegantly Elgin Wine Route Launch Weekend
Date: 06 – 07 October 2012
Varietal Focus for month of October: Flagship Wines a celebration of Cool Climate wines
Time: 10h00 – 17h00
Venue: 16 Wine estates located on the Elegantly Elgin Map.

Event Name: Elegantly Elgin Open Wine Weekend
Date: 03– 04 November  and the 10- 11 November 2012
Varietal Focus for month of November: A Sauvignon Blanc Celebration
Time: 10h00 – 17h00
Venue: 16 Wine estates located on the Elegantly Elgin Map.

Event Name: Elegantly Elgin Open Wine Weekend
Date: 01 – 02  December 2012
Varietal Focus for month of December: Chardonnay Celebration
Time: 10h00 – 17h00
Venue: 16 Wine estates located on the Elegantly Elgin Map.

Event Name: Elegantly Elgin Wine Route Launch Weekend
Date: 05 – 06 January 2013
Varietal Focus for month of January: New Year celebration of Elegantly Elgin Whites (Aromatic blends)
Time: 10h00 – 17h00
Venue: 16 Wine estates located on the Elegantly Elgin Map.

Elgin Ridge and the Cape South Coast

Original article by TV masters of wine, Susie & Peter, view Susie and Peter’s website

Cape South Coast by Peter

The New World’s ongoing quest for elegance, complexity and drinkability in its top wines – both white and red – has often led to the sea.

The briney’s cooling, moderating influence tends to give longer hang time, lower alcohol levels and altogether more rewarding wines than hot inland areas in warm countries.

True, the viticulture can be more challenging, the land costlier, the risks higher – but the finest wines have always come from marginal climates and risky, challenging endeavours.

In this context, it was fascinating recently to taste a range of wines (100, to be precise) from South Africa’s newly created Cape South Coast appellation. To clarify – these aren’t all newly created producers or wineries (many of them already have an impressive track record). It’s simply the umbrella appellation that’s new, to take in a number of smaller wine areas along the cape’s south coast (namely Cape Agulhas, Overberg, Plettenberg Bay, Swellendam and Walker Bay districts as well as the Herbertsdale and Stilbaai East wards).

Phew.

As for the wines, it was Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah that most impressed, with Pinot Noir more variable (as it tends to be, especially when some vineyards are young) but seeming to have a bright future. The names that most impressed were Paul Cluver (whites), Brunia, Ataraxia, Hamilton Russell, Beaumont, Luddite and Catherine Marshall. The overall standard was very creditable and disappointments were few, though Bouchard Finlayson deserves a reprimand for consistently bland, underwhelming wines.

Top tips are featured below.

Tasting notes (from 18th July 2012)

Paul Cluver Riesling 2010, 11.3%, Elgin (£10.99-11.99, Halifax Wine, SA Wines Online, D Byrne, SH Jones, Oxford Wine Co) – lovely clean, crisp, succulent style – well rounded, with defined red apple flavours. Lovely stuff, delicious. (The Close Encounter Riesling, a touch pricier but also lovely, is also worth a try.) 7/10

Brunia Sauvignon Blanc 2010, 13.5%, Walker Bay (£8.95, The Wine Society) – complex, mineral, layered flavours. Understated but vibrant too. Juicy grapefruit and pear flavours, with ripe citrus acidity. Elegantly textured, very long. (The 2011 is also tasting very nicely too.) 6.5-7/10

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2011, 13%, Walker Bay (£11.49, Wimbledon Wine Cellar, Waitrose) – effortlessly elegant and engaging. Rounded, mineral and with beautiful earthy citrus character. Hint of honey together with a refreshing sea-spray freshness. Puts other ‘wannabe’ wines into context. 7/10

Elgin Ridge ‘282’ Sauvignon Blanc 2011, 14%, Elgin (£12.99, Les Caves de Pyrene, Green & Blue, Bedales, Wine Direct) – succulent, mineral – layered and long. Very well judged, albeit in a ‘bigger’ style, with flavours of roasted lemon and peas. 7/10

Shannon Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2011, 13.5%, Elgin (£13.32, SA Wines Online) – aromas of anis, wax, herbs and lime rind. This has a touch of Semillon, which adds this complexity and pithy character. Succulent and complex, lovely stuff. 7/10

Ataraxia Sauvignon Blanc 2012, 13.5%, Western Cape (£15) – a really classy wine, with subtle but profound flavours of ripe citrus, honey, grapefruit and roasted herbs. Dense, graceful and complex. Very good. 7.5/10

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2011, 13%, Hemel-en-Aarde (£21.99, Quaff, Fortnum & Mason, Harrods) – benchmark stuff from this reputable producer. It’s bright and characterful, with aromas of melon and burnt cream, but also well grounded with a ripe lemony acidity and mineral notes. 7/10

Catherine Marshall Pinot Noir 2010, 14%, Elgin (£14.20-15.20, Tanners, SH Jones, VIvat Bacchus) – pale, limpid, elegant style. Earthy and cultured, with scents of wild berries and warm clay. Very nice. 6.5-7/10

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2010, 14.5%, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (£29.49, Quaff, Planet of the Grapes, Fortnum & Mason) – effortlessly elegant in the context (older vines?) with earthy, herbal, berry fruit aromas and a dense, polished, refined palate. Still a big style but lovely harmony. 7.5-8/10

Luddite Shiraz 2006, 14%, Bot River (£26.49, Les Caves de Pyrene, Green & Blue, Roberson, Bordeaux Index) – elegant peppery, spicy style with a juicy flavour profile. It’s relatively broad and spicy in style but elegant too. 6.5/10

Brunia Shiraz 2010, 13.5%, Walker Bay (£12.50) – toasted, ashen, black pepper flavours and a smooth yet spicy flavour profile. Understated, good. 6.5/10

Ataraxia Serenity 2008, 14.5%, Western Cape (£13.95, Stone Vine & Sun) – elegant, leathery style. Baked herbs; serious, grown-up style, needs food. Broad, structured, very classy. 7/10

Elgin Ridge at The Test Kitchen – Cape Town

Original article by Terri Dunbar-Curran in Cape Times

INSTEAD of whipping up that old trusty vanilla sponge for your lunch guests this weekend, try something new with fresh seasonal produce. Now that apples and pears are in season, it’s the perfect time to whip up tasty tarts, crisp salads and baked goodies.

Tru-Cape decided to celebrate the season and the versatility of its apples and pears with a lunch at The Test Kitchen in Woodstock, where chef Luke Dale-Roberts created a variety of dishes featuring the fruit.

Sipping on apple bellinis  and Elgin Ridge Wines, guests tucked into a decadent lunch  of Abate Fetel Pear salad with parmesan, wild rocket and candied pecan nut brittle; braised pork belly with roasted baby Fuji apples stuffed with pork sausage mince and wrapped in bacon; and a syrupy Granny Smith tarte tatin.

The range of dishes you can create with fresh fruit are endless. So why not start with the humble, succulent pear?

Named after the Abbot who discovered the fruit in 1866, Abate Fetel pears are now available in supermarkets. They are usually exported and so are not often seen here, but because of over-supplied European markets, we have the chance to enjoy them too

It’s best to keep them in the fridge and eat them within a week, but when they start to lose their crispness, don’t get rid of them – add them to your favourite dishes.

To get you started here are a few tantalising recipes.

l For more recipes and information, see www.tru-cape.co.za

Green bean, bacon and pear affair

25g feta cheese, crumbled

50g pine nuts

60g streaky bacon cut into cubes

200g green beans

5ml olive oil

10ml unsalted butter

1 pear, cubed

1. Remove the heads and tails of the green beans, cut them in half diagonally and steam for 5 minutes or until al dente.

2. Add the pine nuts to a non-stick pan and toast over a high heat for 3 minutes, continually tossing them to prevent burning. Rremove and allow to cool.

3. Heat the oil and 5ml of the butter in a non-stick pan, fry the bacon until crispy, drain on paper towel.

4. Wipe the pan clean and heat the remaining butter. Add the pear and quickly fry for 1 minute.

5. Pour the pear and the pan’s butter over the green beans, add the bacon and toss well.

6. Sprinkle over the toasted pine nuts and crumble over the feta cheese.

Pear and blackberry tarts

50g butter, melted

50g blackberries, defrosted

30ml castor sugar

1 egg, beaten

2 pears, cored, peeled and sliced thinly (Use Abate Fetel, Beurre Bosc or Conference pears)

4 sheets of phyllo pastry

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

2. Cut the phyllo pastry into rectangles (12.5 cm x 11.5 cm).

Brush half the pastry rectangles with butter and place the remaining pastry on top of the buttered pastry.

Then brush the surface of the pastry with the beaten egg. Draw  a 1cm thick border with a sharp knife around the surface of the  pastry.

3. Heat 25g of the butter over a medium heat in a saucepan, add the pear slices and gently fry for 1 minute on each side, then cool the slices slightly.

4. Place the pear slices in the centre of the pastry, ensuring you do not go over the inner border. Brush the pear slices with the remaining melted butter and scatter the blackberries over the slices. Sprinkle over castor sugar and bake for 13 minutes.

Nutty Pear Fools

60g unsalted butter

100g nutty crunch biscuits, crushed

200g peanut brittle

80ml white sugar

250ml cream

250ml Greek yoghurt

120ml boiling water

2 pears, peeled and cored, thinly sliced

1. Melt the butter in a  saucepan and stir in the crushed biscuits.

2. Beat the cream until stiff, and fold in the yoghurt.

3. Melt the peanut brittle over a low heat with the boiling water and sugar until melted and syrupy, stir in the pear slices.

4. Layer the ingredients in the following order in a martini glass: biscuit, cream, pear slices, cream. Top with broken peanut brittle and a few pear slices.

5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Lunch with Jamie Goode at Kew’s Glasshouse

Original article by Jamie Goode on his Wine Anorak Blog

Lunch at the Glasshouse, Kew, with Brian and Marion Smith of Elgin Ridge

Kew’s Glasshouse has to be one of the best places to lunch in London. It’s the sister restaurant to the equally impressive La Trompette in Chiswick, and together this pair of gems gives those of us out west reason to feel grateful. They both possess brilliant wine lists alongside highly creative and utterly delicious cooking, and are very reasonably priced.

I was guest today of Brian and Marion Smith of Elgin Ridge, an exciting new producer in the Elgin region of South Africa. They moved there in 2007 after selling their Kingston-based IT business. They’d always wanted to do a vineyard project but it took them a while to decide where.

Initially they had thought about making sparkling wine in the south of England, but the land was just too expensive. Then they considered France, but found that the wine industry was in turmoil and most of the properties on the market were there because the people were struggling to sell their wine, and they were expensive to boot.

So they turned to South Africa, and a property in Elgin that ticked all the boxes. Marion had first visited Cape Town in 2002, and liked it so much she came home having brought a holiday flat. Brian visited in 2003 and while he was staying there tasted a Sauvignon Blanc that he liked so much (the debut vintage of Iona), he went to visit the owner, Andrew Gunn. They became friends.

The combination of affordable land, and knowing people there led to the purchase of an abandoned 10 hectare apple farm in 2007. ‘It turns out that we have wonderful soils,’ says Marion. ‘It turns out this was more luck than judgement,’ Brian adds. ‘It is great that we were able to plant from scratch.’

They have so far planted 4.5 hectares, with 3.5 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and half a hectare each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They are organically certified, and as of this year Marion – who looks after the vineyard – has decided to go biodynamic, a decision prompted by a visit from Monty Waldin. They have just bought two Dexter cows, to complement their ducks. ‘The dogs and cats don’t know what to make of them,’ says Brian.

Production is 15 000 bottles this year, rising to 20 000 next year. The goal is to peak at 40 000 bottles. Winemaking consultancy is from Niels Verburg, who was initially reluctant to fill this role, but has agreed to work for three years with Brian in the winery, with a view to handing over. Kevin Watt has assisted with the viticulture.

We didn’t try the Elgin Ridge wines. I tried them back in March, and was really impressed by the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, which I rated as one of South Africa’s best. The Chardonnay 2010 was very good, but not quite in the same league. Brian and Marion had just returned from a spectacular-sounding tour of Burgundy, so they ordered a couple of Burgundies from the list with the help of sommelier Sara Bachiorri, who was really impressive – particularly in the way she dealt with the low level taint in one of the wines, insisting on opening a second bottle immediately.

And the food? I had an intruiging starter of rabbit cannelloni with cumin and carrot, peas, fèves and mustard velouté. The flavours really worked well together, and the presentation was excellent. The cumin gave it quite a spicy, almost Indian character. My main was simply majestic, and one of the best things I have eaten this year. Miso glazed pork belly with spring greens, shitake and pork pastilla, soy and enoki broth was both utterly delicious, but also full of interest. The pastilla worked really well with the super-tender, flavoursome belly pork strips.

Simon Bize Savigny Les Beaune 2008 Burgundy A cracking white Burgundy. Very fine, fresh, mineral, slightly matchstick nose is taut and inviting. The palate is fresh and nicely intense with lemony acidity and attractive minerality. Very focused, and delicious. Could even do with a year or two to open out more. Will last a lot longer. 92/100

Mugneret-Gibourg Vosne Romanee 2002 Burgundy This may be just a village level wine, but it’s fabulous, and in a great place now. Elegant, precise and mineral, yet generous with it. Some spicy, grainy, fine tannins under the red cherry fruit. Grippy, fine and expressive with hints of earth. Just so good for drinking now, but the structure suggests it will be even better in a year or two. 94/100

Elgin Ridge at Chardon d’Or – Glasgow

Original article by Joe McGuire on The Glaswegian

Joe writes

I ALWAYS like dealing with family companies.

There’s something reassuring knowing that a business isn’t just a faceless corporation, but has a human face behind it. I find it doubly reassuring when an individual has such faith in their product that they’ll put their name to it.

In the case of West Regent street restaurant Chardon d’Or, owner and chef Brian Maule has the confidence to stick his name above the door. It’s a confidence that’s completely justified.

I visited last Friday night, the day after Maule, who trained under culinary masters the Roux brothers, took home Chef of the Year at the CIS Awards, an auspicious omen for my review.

Walking in to Chardon d’Or we were immediately greeted by the maitre de who ushered my friend and I to our window table. From there I could survey the entire room, an airy and open space, tastefully decorated and with bluesy jazz playing softly in the background. It made for easy listening as I selected a bottle.

The restaurant enjoys a reputation for fine wines, and holds regular tasting nights. Perusing the extensive wine menu it was clear to see this reputation is well merited. I chose a bottle of South African sauvignon blanc, Elgin Ridge 282 (£36) which was the finest I’ve had.

Reading the menu I was faced with the only unpleasant part of the evening-choosing just one starter and main. While waiting on our starters a foie gras amuse bouche whet our appetites nicely and promised excellence to come.

To kick things off I chose the pan friend crevetts with chorizo, red pepper compote, and sauce aioli (£10.50). Presented so beautifully I felt a tad guilty about eating it, the unusual combination of king prawns and chorizo was an absolute winner.

My friend chose the goats cheese which was served with a beetroot salad, walnuts and caramelised apple (£8.95) and she reported that it was “divine”.

Next up I chose the roast cod fillet with broccoli puree and grilled leeks, topped with a black olive tapenade (£24). This was an absolute triumph, the fish cooked to perfection and frankly I could’ve happily eaten a whole bowl of the tapenade alone (a puree of olives, anchovies, capers and olive oil). Now I’m not a fussy eater but I’ve never been a broccoli fan; It’s testament to Maule’s training that he could actually make me want more of them, and the grilled leeks where exceptional.

My companion opted for the breast of duck with spinach and tips of asparagus (£23.50). I got a sliver of this myself and it was top notch, the meat succulent and juicy. My friend said her only regret at ordering it was my poor japery of diving under the table when I asked what she ordered.

To round things off I had the homemade ice cream and sorbets selection (£8.95) , with vanilla, pistachio, watermelon and orange the order of the day, all delicious.

My friend thought she ordered the oranges marinated in grenadine, and orange curd with macaroons (£8.50) but what arrived was in fact an artwork-an incredibly tasty artwork admittedly.

A very nice touch is the fact that Maule came out and talked to the table who were finished, sharing a few words with all.

I love that philosophy that because it’s his name on the door, it’s him in the kitchen and on the floor.

He told me that not a single dish leaves the kitchen without his approval and from the excellence on display Friday evening, it’s clear that this diligence has paid off.

Address: 176 West Regent Street  Phone: 248 3801 Web: www.brianmaule.com

Where goodness translates into good wine

This article originally appeared on www.wine.co.za and has been read 1393 times

When asked why he was mulching with egg shells, my fathers’ favourite saying was this: “everything goes back to nature”. This might be a little too simplistic a view of organic farming, but true in this context.

Marion Smith with her beloved organic Sauvignon blanc vines

What you put back into the ground, you get back out and he wanted to place as much goodness back into the soil as possible. We used mulch with ground egg shells, ash from the fire, grass, leaves and food waste. The point of the legendary compost heap at the bottom of the garden wasn’t just to provide entertainment for us as children and the odd assortment of vegetables that grew from the occasional seeds which found their way onto the heap – it was to provide an incredible natural source of nutrients, earthworms and structure to the soil of our garden.

The menagerie of geese, ducks and chickens we kept would be on egg duty, snail patrol and for the occasional sport of chasing the cat and small child (me) around the garden. Weeds were simply pulled out using child labour (me again) instead of using weed killer.

Snails (if they weren’t eaten by the ducks, chickens or geese) met their untimely demise in a tin of brine – the same with other insects. Spiders that managed to find their way into our home were gently invited out by my father, inside a glass bottle. The point of my whimsical meanderings was that we tried to make sure that we would rarely use chemicals in our garden to provide what we termed ‘easy gardening’.

Elgin Ridge organic vines

Now ‘easy gardening’ and wine-making have a great deal in common, except on a grander scale because there is a commercial and financial gain to be made. It isn’t growing a crop of tomatoes to sell at the village market it is large scale business involving greater production levels, processing, supply chain and financial risk. Chemicals have to be used to keep pests at bay, soil has to be treated to provide as much nutritional value as possible for the vines, the yield per hectare has to be able make financial sense where your commodity is sold per ton and spoilage greatly reduces that gain. The cosmetic factor of having animals, birds, bees and butterflies, is by the way side on a large-scale commercial farm and certainly not as important as the financial gain of the product. Or is it?

The answer is simple if you look at what my father used to say: “what you place into the ground, you get back out”. Now much the same with can be said regarding the use of harmful chemicals: if you put these into the soil, ultimately your soil becomes tainted with undesirable contents, the soil could become barren – in constant need of additional nutrients and attention – and eventually the soil stops providing the rich nutritious food it once did. The birds, butterflies and insects all push off for pastures better, not just greener.

According to WOSA, a total of 101 016 hectares of vines are planted in the Cape wine lands and other regions, farmed by more than 3600 farmers. Give or take a couple of numbers as the year progresses. However out the 101 016 000 hectares, only 0.8% (approx 125 hectares) was ‘Certified Organic’ as of 2010 according to Monty Waldin’s Biodynamic Wine Guide 2011.

Surely I ask, with the increasing consumer demand for traceability, ethical and holistic practices in food production and in turn healthier eating and drinking, why only so few fully registered? The answer rests in the effort and desire for farms to become organic.

Josef Lazarus of Lazanou Organic Vineyards’ superb quote in the Spring edition of Winestyle 2011, “I find it quite amusing that organic producers have to be certified to farm in the most natural way possible”, sums up the frustration some farmers feel at the process of becoming organic. The time, effort and cost sometimes are simply far too great for some producers.

There are also a great many producers who are adhering to organic practices but the volume of paperwork is outstandingly large. The other side of the coin is that many farms claim to be organic, riding on the wave of ‘organic production’ but hide behind the excuse of ‘too busy to do the paperwork to get certified’. In reality, these farms use chemicals that are banned from certified organic viticulture.

Pinot noir grapes on Elgin Ridge

On a recent visit to the Elgin Valley, I had the enormous pleasure of visiting Elgin Ridge – the only Certified Organic vineyard in the Elgin Valley. Four hectares of Sauvignon blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay and Pinot noir are grown on the sloping property overlooking the valley. Acclaimed viticulturist Kevin Watt was on board from the start of planting to provide advice and valuable knowledge to owners Marion and Brian Smith.

Elgin Ridge has international accreditation like the majority of South African organic grape and wine producers. Under EU regulations, the vines have had to produce grapes grown in organic conditions for at least three years. Products that are only certified as organic can be used on the vines and soil, for example guano from Namibia and Seagrow.

Owner Marion Smith explained why she wanted to farm organically: “Having sold our successful IT business in London we decided it was time to pursue a dream we had always nurtured: to make outstanding wines in small quantities that reflected our passion. We searched most of the wine growing regions in Europe, but eventually concluded the Elgin Valley in South Africa was the ideal place to realise this dream. The small farm we purchased was run down but showed great potential, and we planted our first vines in 2007. The objective from the beginning was to be organic, and as the farm had been fallow for many years, suited this objective perfectly.

At Elgin Ridge, our focus is on farming the land organically, in a way that is sustainable and ensures the wines truly represent the land itself. With quality grapes, there is less to do in the cellar, and our winemaking philosophy of ‘minimal intervention’ – carried out by winemaker, Niels Verburg – allows a natural approach throughout, from vine to bottle.

Our vines are on land 282 metres above sea level that was and still is completely untouched by chemicals. We recycle our farm vegetation and make our own compost to ensure our vines are truly natural, aided only with approved organic materials. We like to celebrate our grapes as they are, so leave the responsibility of pest control to some smaller but equally important members of the team: our beloved ducks. These are hatched on our farm and trained to eat pests daily.”

Dorper sheep, Peking ducks and chickens are used to keep the vineyard in check. Snails get eaten by the ducks and chickens, the sheep mow the grass in the vineyards and apple orchard.

The trainee snail patrol ducklings

The ducks and chickens also provide a source of free range eggs which are for sale (along with Marions’ delicious homemade chutney), in the tasting room adorned with the original prints by gonzo artist Ralph Steadman. (More of his prints and work can be viewed at www.ralphsteadman.com)

The two wines available are the 282 Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and 282 Chardonnay 2010 which both reflect the wine making style of Niels Verburg: “minimal intervention” and the quality of the vineyard: “a good vineyard will produce good wine”.

The Sauvignon Blanc 2011 was classic crisp Golden Delicious apple tartness, pear and grapefruit with undertones of green herby characters. Big juicy fruit flavours with green melon on the palate.

The Chardonnay 2010 (unwooded) is light and quaffable with notes of nectarines, white peaches and pears, fruit blossom and a little spice on the nose and palate. This is the maiden vintage of Chardonnay produced on the farm, so I am looking forward to seeing how it will develop on 2011 and 2012.

Sold and served only through restaurants and from the Elgin Ridge Tasting Room, these wines are gracing the wine lists and top sommelier recommendations in South Africa and the UK. From the Taj Hotel, Test Kitchen, Sotana in Cape Town to Marcus Wareing at The Berkely, The Glasshouse Restaurant, and Searcys in London.

I really enjoyed both wines and also the story behind Marion and Brians’ desire to farm originally. I left the farm with a smile on my face, arms laden Marions’ apple and cranberry chutney and with freshly laid duck and chicken eggs tucked in their boxes for the journey back to Cape Town. I also felt good knowing I was supporting a producer that was doing good by the earth and adhering to the formula: good soil = good vines = good wines.

This article first appeared on Pauline’s blog and has been republished here with her permission.

BLOG POST BY Pauline Nash – 6 MARCH 2012

What I Drank Last Night by Christian Eedes

Original article published on What I drank last night, visit the website

I’m inclined to give many organic grown wines a sympathy vote, which is to say overlook mediocre quality on account of the worthy intentions of the producer. No need for that in the case of Elgin Ridge (certified as of the 2012 vintage).

Brian and Marion Smith sold their IT business based in southwest London at the end of 2006 and bought a small property in Elgin in April 2007. 4ha of vineyard were established between 2007 and 2009, plantings including mainly Sauvignon Blanc but also Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Semillon. As for why they opted to farm organically, there’s no particularly elaborate philosophy behind this other than to do good by their soil.

What was intended to be a “relaxing retirement project” turned out to be “bloody hard work”, says Brian. You get the impression, however, that they’re enjoying every minute of it and they concede that setting up their operation was far easier than it might have been elsewhere. The respected Kevin Watt advises on viticulture while Niels Verburg of Luddite is their winemaking consultant. “You’d never be able to get that level of cooperation in France,” says Marion.

To taste, the three vintages of Sauvignon Blanc made to date. Though the vines were only 20 months old in 2009, intensive treatment with Seagro organic fertiliser and chicken manure pellets facilitated a small crop and production has grown steadily from there.

2009: Overt but not totally displeasing mercaptan character as well as granadilla on the nose and palate. Good palate weight, tangy acidity. Something of a guilty pleasure. Score: 15.5/20.

2010: Shy nose. Good range of flavour on the palate: lime, granadilla, yellow apple, touch of pepper. Good palate weight, gentle acidity.Score: 16/20.

2011: Very primary on the nose. Green and yellow apple as well as subtle pepper on the palate. Moderate acidity. The most technically correct to date. Score: 16.5/20.

Marion Smith on Elgin RidgePerhaps not classic South African Sauvignon Blanc, these wines nevertheless have real interest value. Whereas Elgin Sauvignon Blanc can be particularly green and lean, Smith opts to pick later than many of his counterparts – he realises he’ll always be fighting high alcohols (14.2% in the case of the 2011) but prefers the greater substance which results.

The 2011 is set to sell for R90 a bottle from the farm but Smith advises that he exports up to 70% of production. “UK retail price is around £11.99 a bottle but most is sold in restaurants and hotels – I’ve seen it selling for £38 a bottle at the Royal Opera House”.

BLOG POST BY Christian Eedes – 7 FEBRUARY 2012