Verticle Tasting on the Ridge in Elgin
ELGIN RIDGE ORGANIC WINES
Friday 12 May 2017
Elgin Ridge was the last vineyard I planned to visit in the Elgin Valley. I had already been to the more established and older wineries – Paul Cluver, Oak Valley, Charles Fox, Almenkerk and Iona – but not here. The 20 hectare farm was bought by Brian and Marion Smith who sold their IT business in London to pursue their dream of making wines. Their misfortune in not finding a suitable property in the wine-growing countries of Europe turned to fortune for South Africa as they chose to buy and settle in the Elgin Valley.
Elgin Ridge is located South of the N2 and at 282 metres above sea level. Turn off at the Peregrine (‘Red Tractor’) Farm Stall and follow the appropriately named Appletiser Road for 4 kilometres and you will find it. There’s no grand sweeping estate entrance but you won’t miss it. The first vines, Sauvignon Blanc, were planted in 2007. Four more cultivars – Chardonnay, Sémillon, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc – have been planted since to make a total of 6.5 hectares under vine. The farm is proudly organic and has the requisite accreditation and certification. Chemicals have not been sprayed on the vineyards for over 10 years.
I arrived just before closing time for tasting, so much so that the new winemaker, Kosie, was in his socks when I somewhat rudely stumbled in to the small, upstairs Tasting Room. He could not have been more kind and welcoming and what a privilege it was (as ever) to taste wines with the winemaker.
We started with 2 Sauvignon Blanc – a 2014 and a 2015 vintage. This was as unexpected as welcome as I had, barely a week previously, completed a like ‘vertical’ tasting of 2014/5/6 vintage Sauvignons Blanc from Diemersdal for a Society meeting. I was able to compare, in short succession, wines of the same years and cultivar but from regions over 100 kilometres apart. I was very struck by the parallels between the vineyards that overlaid the individual winemaker styles. The 2014 vintage was a deeper straw in colour, more aromatic and warm lemon/citrus/apricot on the nose and creamier, smoother on the palate than the younger wine. In comparison, the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc was more classic in having green, citrus and herbaceous aromas with a crisper acidity.
Kosie told me how Elgin Ridge seeks to make wines with a sense of place to express each vintage. The focus was evident but so too must there be temptation for the winemaker to experiment and lose focus. He opened Pinots Noir from 2013 and 2014 (also unreleased 2016) and we compared these too. Take any characteristic – appearance, nose and palate – and each year was surprisingly different. I could see colour gradation from deep pink to purple (2013) to pale to deep pink (2014) to shiny pale to medium pink (2016). Side-by-side comparison helps focus my tasting abilities too. I could distinguish fruity cherry aromas and a silky, well structure palate for 2013 from sweeter, almost floral cherry aromas with brighter, tart tannins for 2014 from sour, unripe cherries with fresh, juicy, closed tannins in 2016.
Elgin Ridge may not be as well known as many of the other Elgin Valley wine farms but I don’t expect that to last long. The wines were just as expressive as those in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and a pleasure to sample. This is a vineyard that I shall keenly follow for the future.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2014 Sauvignon Blanc – R135*
2015 Sauvignon Blanc – R130
2013 Pinot Noir – R175* FAVOURITE WINE
2014 Pinot Noir – R250
2016 Pinot Noir – Not yet released