I was really bowled over this week. I attended the launch of Almenkerk wine estate in Elgin. (And herewith a warning…. I intend to mangle as many cricket metaphors as possible, since I’ll be attending the one day international between the South African Proteas and England! The omens are good – sunshine, light breeze and a South African team which has already lost two games in the series. Nothing like a little hurt pride to foster a nail biter!)
What knocked me for six was the realisation of how impressive a wine region Elgin has become. Driving along the Viljoenshoop road I was immediately conscious of standardised signage for all the wine farms. Gone are the days when Paul Cluver and Oak Valley were the only two proudly Elgin producers. There’s a single “look and feel” to all the wine producers’ signs and lots of evidence of the ramped up tourism offering in the area too. Lots of guest houses, B&Bs and even a tented safari camp.
Putting a new spin on things, some locals have already dubbed Almenkerk wine estate “Elgin’s Tokara” courtesy of its stone clad exterior and impressive vantage point overlooking its 105 hectares of vineyards. The Belgian Van Almenkerk family bought the former fruit farm five years ago and have invested heavily in ripping out pretty much all the apple and pear trees and replacing them with vines. This is definitely a producer to watch…a bit like JP Duminy during last year’s Australian tour.
Young winemaker Joris van Almenkerk scored a four straight off – four stars in the 2010 Platter Guide, that is, with his inaugural 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. While some would say he’d played with a straight bat, others would say the result was a foregone conclusion based on terroir and location: Almenkerk neighbours both Arumdale and Thelema’s Sutherland vineyards which have already established a solid track record for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling.
The list of Elgin producers has grown substantially over the past few years and now includes Cathy Marshall, Ross Gower, Elgin Vintners, Paul Wallace, Kingsbridge, Shannon, Iona, Highlands Road, South Hill, Glen Erskine and Belfield. And it’s not just white wines which are gaining respect but reds too – Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz and even Malbec and Cabernet Franc.
So, overall, the Elgin ‘pitch’ looks good and while it may swing and seam a bit with different vintages, the team look set for a good score!
One final snippet: the Vineyard Hotel was the chosen lunch venue for the King and Queen of Norway’s visit to Cape Town this week. Sources reveal that the Royal couple and their entourage enjoyed Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel on the manicured lawns with their stunning vistas of Table Mountain before enjoying Meerlust Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Rudera Robusto Chenin Blanc, Kanonkop Pinotage and Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance.