Tag Archives: organic

Natural Wine at Caroline’s Fine Wine

NATURAL WINE TASTING will be held at Caroline’s Fine Wines, Strand Street, Cape Town, on Wednesday, 21st January from 5pm to 8pm.  To find out more about natural wine, Click here for details.  There will be thirteen French wines – Domaine Foillard ( Beaujolais ), Morgon & Fleurie, Dom Breton Vouvray & Chinon, Thierry Germain Saumur Blanc et Rouge, Rene Moss Anjou ( Chenin ), Pierre Gerbais Champagne, Herve Souhaut ( Rhone ) Gamay & Syrah.

Maddox ploughing vineyardsElgin Ridge is proud to be part of the Natural Wine Tasting, standing  by side with these great wines. We are the only certified organic farm in Elgin and farm using traditional methods.

Doug Wregg, will say a few words at 6pm. Doug is the sales and marketing director at Les Cave de Pyrene, a company specialising in artisan, organic, and biodynamic natural wines, in the UK.

Les Cave de Pyrene also own several natural wine bars in London. Doug is sometimes an outspoken advocate of the more natural approach to winemaking, and is co-founder and co-organiser of, The Real Wine Fair, London’s most prominent annual natural wine festival.  Doug writes regular blogs and columns for various food and wine magazines  in the UK, and is considered an expert, and leading proponent, in the Philosophy of making wines in the most natural and environmentally-sustainable way.

Tickets cost R250 per person, which can be booked directly by e-mailing Sasha on carowine@mweb.co.za or click here for a booking form. ( Booking essential and numbers strictly limited ). It’s a walk-around tasting, so you can arrive when you want, but last entry is at 6.30pm

2014 Harvest News

Elgin Ridge Harvest 2014

After a cool and very wet summer, harvest at Elgin Ridge started with the Chardonnay (Marion’s Bubbly) on February 11th.

This was followed by the Pinot Noir on February 24th and the Sauvignon Blanc was started on March 12th and finished on March 18th, a full two weeks later than 2013 reflecting the cool season.

Whilst a challenging vintage, the fruit was perfectly ripe at the time of picking, and bunch selection was rigorous. thus eliminating any sub-standard fruit.

All varietals produced juice of excellent quality and all were naturally fermented without any inoculation of commercial yeasts. This produces relatively slow ferments which preserve natural flavours and aromas thus reflecting the true attributes of the location, climate & soil.

All the wines are potentially the best so far from Elgin Ridge, with the Pinot Noir looking outstanding, with fine fruit and good acidity. The Sauvignon Blanc probably has the best expression of the varietal we have had and whilst the Chardonnay has much reduced yields, the quality is excellent.

A challenging vintage which required diligence and a determination not to sacrifice quality for quantity.

Brian

Competition Closed and we have Lucky Winners

When will Ruby have her calf
When will Ruby have her calf

Our competition is easy; guess what date Ruby, our treasured Dexter cow, will have her calf and also guess if it will be a boy or a girl, to win a case of Elgin Ridge Sauvignon Blanc.

If you guess the date correctly but get the boy or girl wrong; you will win 3 bottles of Elgin Ridge Sauvignon Blanc

If you guess it is a girl or boy correctly; but get the date wrong, you will win 3 bottles of Elgin Ridge Sauvignon Blanc.

Ruby is expected to have her calf between now and the 6th January 2014, so don’t take too long to decide or you may miss winning a case of our Organic Sauvignon Blanc

Competition winners need to be over 18 years and live in South Africa or the United Kingdom. Sorry rest of the world, our wine will be available in your country soon.

Behind the scenes at Elgin Ridge

Each season our vines burst into life looking healthier and healthier, The vineyards which produce our organic wines have not been sprayed with any chemical since 2007, Which might be why our wines receive such rave reviews.

We are often asked, how can we farm organically when many organic vineyard owners get very low yields, but at Elgin Ridge, we are blessed, achieving really good yields. So take a look at what happens at Elgin Ridge behind the scenes to make our wonderful wines.

New buds on vines

At Elgin Ridge we never use chemical to control pests, we use ducks instead

Ducks checking for pests

We never use insecticides, as each vine has a band of fluffy material to stop insects crawling up the vine

Vines with fluffy skirts

We make and use biodynamic preparations from our own cow dung and make our all our own compost from cellar waste and any organic material on the farm.

Cows in vineyard

A big work load, farming organically, is weeding each row of vines by hand, having visited Burgundy last year, and seen how horses are used to plough the weeds back into the soil, we now have Maddox on the farm, Maddox a gentle, enormous, Percheron, loves ploughing. He only needed two training sessions and he was ready for work.

Maddox Ploughing

Elgin Ridge Organic Wine by Jamie Goode

Brian Smith Elgin Ridge
Brian Smith

Had a great lunch at the Glass House, Kew on Monday, with Brian Smith, a now-biodynamic winegrower in Elgin, South Africa. I first met Brian and his wife Marion at the same restaurant just over a year ago (so my blog tells me), and they’ve now got to the point where they have their first Pinot Noir bottled. Plans are afoot to produce a Chardonnay-based MCC (sparkling wine), but this won’t be ready for a while.

It’s interesting that Brian and Marion have adopted biodynamics so enthusiastically, to the point that they are now certified fully. Marion has been the driver behind this: Brian says that initially he’d have been quite happy to spray chemicals everywhere, but now he has converted too. They now have a Percheron horse that he’s very proud of, as well as 11 cows and some sheep. ‘The Percheron is the most beautiful horse,’ says Brian. ‘It’s 16 1/2 hand, and weighs 1100 kg.’

organic sauvignon blanc
Elgin Ridge Sauvignon blanc

‘The tough thing is to get organic certification. Once you get this you are part of the way there,’ says Brian. ‘The soil on the farm was tested for chemicals to give the vines the best start.’ He adds, ‘when you think of all the horrible things farmers used to use, it’s a wonder that the land is living at all.’

Brian and Marion are gaining confidence. For example, with the Sauvignon, the 2012 is the first where they felt able to do 100% natural ferment. In the previous vintages they did the small tanks natural, and the large inoculated, for safety reasons. Now they leave the wine on lees until December (the harvest is early March). In 2012 Brian says he made 90% of the wine (with help from Niels Verberg); in 2013 he made 100%.

Elgin Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Elgin, South Africa

Lovely aromatics: expressive, bright, beautiful fruit – white peach, pear, citrus with subtle green notes. The palate is so well balanced with ripe fruit and lovely weight and precision. There’s real presence here, a proper Sauvignon [92/100] 

Brian says that he planted Pinot Noir because he’s ‘a red wine drinker trapped on a white wine farm.’ The 2012, first release, won’t be out for a while, but it’s looking very promising.

Elgin Ridge Organic Pinot Noir
Elgin Ridge Organic Pinot Noir

 Elgin Ridge Pinot Noir 2012 Elgin, South Africa

Natural ferment (done on the spur of the moment when the destemmed grapes were in the tank), 10 months in oak (20% new, the rest very old). This is South Africa’s only organic Pinot. There’s a bit of spice from the new oak but the dominant theme is the lovely pure, focused red cherry and berry fruit. Amazing finesse and purity. Still primary with potential for development [92/100]

Originally posted on Jamie Goode’s Wine blog

Christian Eedes tastes our Sauvignon Blanc

Elgin Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2012An organic sauvignon with a certain Je ne sais quoi is how Christian Eedes describes our 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

The Sauvignon Blanc 2012 from Elgin Ridge retains the winning quirkiness while simultaneously losing some of the rough edges of previous vintages.

No exaggerated aromatics but Golden Delicious apples, green melon and an intriguing hint of spice on the palate.

Total acidity is 6.7g/l but you’d never guess – nine months on the lees adds plenty of texture without the wine becoming unduly heavy.

Owners Brian and Marion Smith set out to be organic since acquiring the small property in 2007 and acquired official certification in October 2011. “I’m pleased we’re avoiding the green, acidic style of Sauvignon. I agree with you about that quirkiness but I’m not sure where it comes from,” says Brian. My guess is that this is another instance where organically grown grapes are contributing to a wine that isn’t same old, same old.

Read more about Christian Eedes at www.whatidranklastnight.co.za

Score: 88/100.

Taste the Only Organic Pinot in South Africa

04 April 2013 Pinot Noir

On the 6th and 7th of April Elgin Ridge, as part of the Elegantly Elgin Open Wine Weekend, is offering you an unique opportunity to taste and pre order the first organic Pinot Noir in South Africa. The wine has been produced to strict European Organic Standards.

Bunches were 100% de-stemmed, with natural fermentation, and 10 months in 20% new French Oak.

Only 1400 Bottles of this unique wine were produced.

The colour is bright medium to dark red with red summer fruits and hints of warm spices, cinnamon and cloves on the nose

The palate is fruit forward on entry, cherries and raspberries with a slight herbal note on mid-palate with a long finish. The tannins are balanced and approachable.

1st Bottle of Pinot Noir at Elgin Ridge
1st Bottle of Pinot Noir at Elgin Ridge

Alcohol 13.5%, Sugar 2.2 g/l, PH 3.6, TA 5.0 g/l, Free SO2 28, Total SO2 61

Cellar Price R250.00 inc VAT

Proud winemakers, Niels Verburg and Brian Smith,
holding the first South African organic pinot noir.

Marion and Brian

Twitter @ElginRidgeWines

Elgin is cool by Jamie Goode

Elgin Ridge VinesElgin is cool—both in terms of the wines it is producing, and also in its temperature. While South Africa has quite a few wine regions, it only has a few that are cool enough to be able to grow fussy cooler-climate varieties such as Riesling and Pinot Noir well, and Elgin is one of them. This is one of the reasons why there is such a buzz about this relatively new region.

In terms of South Africa’s wine region classification system, Elgin is currently a ‘ward’, but is likely to soon become a wine ‘district’. And of the country’s wine regions, it’s the only one with natural boundaries – in this case, three mountain ranges and the sea. Geographically speaking, Elgin is a bowl surrounded by mountains, with the valley floor at 300 m, and the highest vineyards are 900 m. If harvest date is used as a measure of climate, this is the coolest wine region in South Africa.

Elgin is famous for its orchards, and apples are still the main crop here, with 60% of South Africa’s apples coming from the region. The first orchards were planted in Elgin by Sir Antonie Viljoen in the early years of the 20th century, on his enormous Oak Valley estate. Viljoen was also the first to plant vineyards here. However, wine production stopped in the 1940s, and it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that vines were to return to Elgin.

The modern era of Elgin wine began in 1985, with the planting of an experimental vineyard at Oak Valley. The following year, the first commercial vineyards were planted by Paul Cluver, and the first wine released from the region was the 1990 Paul Cluver Riesling.

‘It’s amazing how this valley has developed over the last 10 years,’ says Paul Cluver Jr. ‘When interest in South African wines exploded in the 1990s, various players began to recognize the potential of the valley,’ says Cluver. ‘All these big names from traditional wine growing areas began investing in this valley,’ he says, naming Thelema, Tokara, Rust en Vrede, Vergelegen, Simonsig and Nederberg. ‘The average age of an Elgin brand today is 3 years.’

Cluver is one of South Africa’s few Riesling specialists, making three different styles: dry, ‘kabinett’ and noble late harvest. There are fewer than 200 hectares of Riesling in the whole country, though. ‘We almost pulled Riesling out,’ says Cluver. ‘It was hard to sell in South Africa.’ As well as exceptional Riesling, Cluver are also making superb Sauvignon Blanc and an impressive Gewürztraminer. For reds, the focus is on Pinot Noir, although it wasn’t always. ‘We had a dream of producing a Bordeaux blend from our property,’ says Cluver. ‘Paul Pontallier visited and at the end of the tasting he said that the red wine is the Pinot Noir, and so this changed our focus, back in 2002.’

Another Elgin pioneer is Andrew Gunn, whose property is Iona. In 1997, having made his money from a medical suture company, Gunn bought a run-down apple farm in the Elgin region. Now it’s one of South Africa’s leading producers of Sauvignon Blanc, although 15 hectares of apple trees still remain alongside the vineyards. It’s at an altitude of 420 metres, with a view of the sea, which is just 3 km away.

Gunn didn’t plant blind; he knew what he was doing in selecting this site. Initially, he put temperature loggers around the farm, and found that the climate here was significantly cooler than expected over the three months that the loggers were recording data. He was able to compare his farm data with those from the Elgin weather station. Because there was a consistent relationship over his three month trial, he was then able to extrapolate his data out over the whole growing season. The exciting results showed that this site was cooler than equivalent places in Europe where Sauvignon Blanc was grown. If the grapes could ripen, then the results could be quite exciting. Peak summer temperatures here are usually 24–25 °C, and if they experience three days over 30 °C, then it’s unusual.

Gunn’s uncle was a professor of geomorphology, and he came out in 1997 to do a survey of the site. It showed that the farm had post-glacial alluvial soils: it was an old river valley. The first harvest was in 2001: by South African standards, it was a late one, straddling the end of March and beginning of April. Gunn found that he was getting good fruit set and a long ripening period, which seemed ideal.

Sauvignon Blanc is the main focus, and 65% of Iona’s plantings are accounted for by this variety. Gunn also owns another farm down in the valley, with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Viognier planted. He never has to acidify. The main farm has 29 hectares of vines, while the property in the valley is 11 hectares, making a total of 40.

Elgin is quite a new region. When Andrew Gunn started out, Paul Cluver was the only producer in the region. Oak Valley was third. ‘We believe it is the up and coming wine region,’ says Gunn. ‘Shortly after I started planting I called a meeting of farmers to share experience. We formed the Elgin Wine Guild, with a view to promote quality.’

And what of Oak Valley, another of the Elgin pioneers? Although they planted their first experimental vineyards in 1985, their first serious vineyards weren’t planted until a few years later. It’s an 1800 hectare farm, with most of the area devoted to fruit production. On the farm there are 48 hectares of vineyards. Oak Valley make superb Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and the Pinot Noir is also really good.

Then there are newcomers, such as Elgin Ridge, owned by Brits Brian and Marion Smith. 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 to do it. 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. ‘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.

Another newcomer, albeit only geographically, is Catherine Marshall Wines. Established for a while but previously based in Stellenbosch, Cathy moved into her Elgin winery in 2011, and is making top quality Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc with grapes purchased from Elgin growers.

The real strength of Elgin seems to be its ability to produce top quality wines from a range of varieties. Riesling is superb; so is Sauvignon Blanc. Chardonnay is superb; so is Pinot Noir. It seems to be hard to pigeonhole this fascinating cool-climate region, and with increasing experience of the terroirs here as well as advancing vine age, it seems the best is yet to come.

Jamie Goode is a UK based award-winning journalist and blogger who is crazy about wine, read more of his articles on http://www.wineanorak.com

Elegantly Elgin Wine Route launches

Elegantly Elgin LogoWine 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)

Elgin Wine Week End bannerDuring  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.

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
Glasshouse Pork Belly
Glasshouse Pork Belly

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.

Glasshouse Rabbit Cannelloni
Glasshouse Rabbit Cannelloni

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