Elgin, South Africa
Elgin's 20 odd wine makers have a well earned reputation for Sauvignon Blanc but they are also making some serious reds. A trip to Elgin can quite easily be made into a day trip if combined with Hermanus (see Hermanus 2010).
Paul Cluver; Monday - Friday 9h00 - 16h30, Saturday 8h30-16h00.
N2 to Hermanus, turn left into Kromco (a huge apple packing Co-Op) follow the Paul Cluver signs
Paul Cluver grows a full range of white wines and Pinot Noir. We tasted the Pinot and the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (R75) has a dash of oaked Semillon that, luckily in our view, does not impact on the Sauvignon taste which is on the minerally side rather than the green pepper side of the taste range. The 2010 Chardonnay (R120) was for us a revelation and will become our benchmark. It had clean oak, a touch of new oak and strong citrus flavours on the palette; all in balance. The Pinot Noir (R200) was light and quite Burgundian but a little shy on the fruit flavours; but at that price one can get great Burgundy from many cellar doors in France. We did not taste their Seven Flags Pinot (R395) which gets rave reviews.
Oak Valley; Monday to Friday: 8h30 – 17h00, Saturday: 10h00 – 14h00
N2 to Hermanus, turn left onto R231 to Villiersdorp
Oak Valley is known for its strong, minerally, Loire-like Sauvignon Blancs; the 2009 (R75) is no exception. The public in SA have got used to the floral style of Sauvignons from Stellenbosch that need to be drunk young and definitely, with rare exceptions, won’t keep longer than a few years. Oak Valley is having to re-educate them into Sauvignons that need to be put down for several years to reach their starting drinking dates. They had 2 other Sauvignons, the second label Rawbones 2010 (R45) which was easy drinking but a touch too sweet for us and a blend, The OV 2008, with 40% oaked semillon (R130) which, to taste, was just oak. In the reds there was the Oak Valley Blend 2005 (R115), by far the best merlot-dominated bordeaux-style blend we‘ve tasted on our recent SA trips, and the Rawbones 2008 (R55), a similar blend from young vines, extraordinary value for money. We bought the Sauvignon Blanc and the Blend.
Heading south of the N2 highway provides some really beautiful countryside and other opportunities to taste Sauvignon Blanc. You need to check which ones may be open on the day and time of your visit – here is a map www.elginwine.co.za. We visited Almenkerk and Highlands Road; the former we had read about, the latter, open and on our route. One might call this part of the tour the Philosophers' Road because both winemakers had very strong and differeing philosophies about wine and how it should be made.
Almenkerk; Tuesday - Saturday 10h00 to 17h00
Almenkerk had its first vintage in 2009. The Sauvignon Blanc (R65) from that vintage was remarkable and if that is the portend we are certainly going to be looking out for their Sauvignon in the future. Even if they didn’t have great wine their winery complex would be worth a visit in its own right as the picture above shows. Joris Almenkerk was very generous with his time even though the day we visited was the first day of their harvest. We learnt a lot from his description of what he was doing. He has an interesting take on the ph levels in wine which we will be looking out for. He has so far managed to avoid the use of sulphur which will be a great draw for those with the allergy.
Highlands Road; Wednesday - Sunday 8:30 to 15:00
Justin Hoy is a character with strong views on wine, its role in life and how it should be made. It makes for a lively tasting session. We bought his Sauvignon Blanc (R62) and will put it down for a few years to see if it gets to where he wants it to go.
We decided to heads back to Cape Town via Franschoek using the R321 north from the N2. This is a great road with fascinating mountains and the best view over Franschoek as you descend into the town. Chamonix (www.chamonix.co.za) seems to be building itself a great reputation for Chardonnay but closes earlier than its website says. Somewhat frustrating.