The South African Rolling Hills of Elgin, a Young Wine Route

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South Africa in summer. Bliss. Just over an hour East of Cape Town lie the rolling hills of Elgin, a young wine route, just over 20 years old. Traditionally an area known for world-class apples and pears, grape-growing in this area started in the 1980s with the first commercial bottling of wine only in the 1990s.

Elgin is geographically and geologically a clearly defined mountain basin called the Hottentots Holland range which sits at a high elevation of between 200 & 300m, it is one of the coolest wine growing areas in South Africa which makes it perfect for cool-climate varietals such as Pinot Noir. The Elgin Vintners Pinot Noir is a gem.

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Developed Pinot Noit vineyards shine bright green under the classic Cape mountains

Elgin Vintners is a partnership of six farming families from the Elgin Valley. These families have been very clever in their wine-making practice in that they have combined their resources to cultivate, produce and market their range of wines. The families all have farms spread out of a 12km radius, which allows for a spectrum of terroir, soils, aspects, altitudes and meso-climates. Different winemakers are utilized for different wines, each specializing in the cultivar they work with. All these elements allow for Elgin Vintners to be as their slogan states “publishers of fine wine”.

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Harvested Pinot Noit grapes on their way to the cellar

The grapes for the Elgin Vintners Pinot Noir are harvested from Elgin Orchards, currently owned by Dr Max Hahn. A homestead was built on the farm Ridgelands by Edward Syfret in 1924, he was a wealthy man and close friend of Cecil John Rhodes who later purchased the neighbouring farm Oudebrug (one of the first farms to export apples and pears from the Elgin Valley) and renamed the entire farm to Elgin Orchards.

Syfret’s daughter, Gladys, married Dolf Denniston. They owned and managed the farm and had two daughters, Trish and Ann. Trish married very late in life and never had children. Ann married a Naval Commander, Andrew Brown. They eventually sold the farm to a UK based company, Westminster Produce, for a record price in the South African fruit industry.

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A close-up of a bunch of Pinot Noir grapes

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Farm workers meticulously prune Pinot Noir vines

After the 2nd World War, the Ridgelands homestead was opened to wounded troops returning home to re-cooperate. Max’s farther was stationed here when he returned from the war after being wounded and became close friends with Dolf Denniston and later the Brown family. He spent many weekends and childhood holidays on the farm as he was in boarding school at Bishops, in Cape Town. In 2001 he purchased the farm from Westminster Produce. Today the farm is planted with 220ha apples & pears, 7ha kiwi fruit and 30ha vineyards and also boasts approximately 250ha of pristine fynbos. The farm is also home to 70 families working on it.

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The original homestead on the farm Ridgelands

This Pinot Noir has been crafted by winemaker Gavin Patterson and has aromas of confected red berry fruits, a touch of truffle and fine dry herbal notes. On the palate once can expect well ripened tannins with a savoury, spicy mid-palate and refreshing acidity. It pairs wonderfully with Chef Anna’s signature seared Scottish Salmon served with Salsa Verde.

Elgin Vintners Pinot Noir

A beautifully crafted bottle of Elgin Vintners Pinot Noir

 

Have you tried this delicious varietal?

Written by Kim Drake

 

Rich Laburn
Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.
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