Renowned for its exceptional cool climate wines, Elgin has emerged one of the most important wine regions in South Africa.
Located 40 miles southeast of Cape Town, Elgin is a remarkably beautiful wine region within South Africa’s Western Cape. Elgin is reminiscent of Alto Adige (Northern Italy) with its vertiginous granite cliffs and beautiful orchard and vineyard-lined valleys.
Like Alto-Adige, Elgin has long been renowned for its apple production. During the Boer War (1899-1902), Sir Antonie Viljoen, a medical officer placed under house arrest, took the opportunity to plant the first commercial orchard and vineyard in Elgin. Although the region continues to contribute a little more than half of South Africa’s apple exports – a key cash crop for the country – the region’s reputation is now expanding beyond orchard fruit and shifting towards its exceptional cool-climate wines.
In the basin of the majestic Hottentots-Holland Mountains, Elgin stands apart from all other Cape wine regions due to its distinct landscape and microclimate. With elevations ranging from 800 to 1,300ft and very close proximity to the South Atlantic Ocean, Elgin receives gentle morning mists that refresh the vineyards along with low average temperatures during the summer. This results in a longer, more gradual ripening process, allowing the grapes to develop balance, remarkable depth, and complexity.
Further, the valley showcases a gently undulating topography and a wide array of sites for growers to select for vineyard planting. This diverse landscape is complemented by varying soil profiles that include gravel, sandstone, clay, and weathered shale.
As a result of this unique climate and landscape, aromatic varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling do best here and are slowly gaining notoriety from local critics as being some of the best in the country. While Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are getting their fair share of attention, Riesling is one to keep an eye on, as it shows tremendous promise – even against those from Germany. Producers to keep an eye on are Paul Clüver, Richard Kershaw, Iona, & Julien Schaal, & Oak Valley.