ELGIN RIDGE, Marion Smith, Elgin Valley Organic
The Elgin Valley is one the South Africa’s ideal wine-growing regions for many reasons: A unique confluence of diverse micro-climates with close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean; cooling cloud cover and high altitude and cold winters and adequate rainfall with complex, ancient soils. Grapes in Elgin take longer to ripen, which means the wines get good natural acidity and perfectly balanced ripe flavours.
Irish owner Marion Smith (from Co.Cavan) explains why she wanted to farm organically: “Having sold our successful IT business in London we decided it was time to pursue a dream we had always nurtured: to make outstanding wines in small quantities that reflected our passion. We searched most of the wine growing regions in Europe, but eventually concluded the Elgin Valley in South Africa was the ideal place to realise this dream. The small farm we purchased was run down but showed great potential, and we planted our first vines in 2007. The objective from the beginning was to be organic, and as the farm had been fallow for many years, suited this objective perfectly.
At Elgin Ridge, our focus is on farming the land organically, in a way that is sustainable and ensures the wines truly represent the land itself. With quality grapes, there is less to do in the cellar, and our winemaking philosophy of ‘minimal intervention’ – carried out by winemaker, Niels Verburg – allows a natural approach throughout, from vine to bottle.
Our vines are on land 282 metres above sea level that was and still is completely untouched by chemicals. We recycle our farm vegetation and make our own compost to ensure our vines are truly natural, aided only with approved organic materials. We like to celebrate our grapes as they are, so leave the responsibility of pest control to some smaller but equally important members of the team: our beloved ducks. These are hatched on our farm and trained to eat pests daily.”
Dorper sheep, Peking ducks and chickens are used to keep the vineyard in check. Snails get eaten by the ducks and chickens, the sheep mow the grass in the vineyards and apple orchard. The ducks and chickens also provide a source of free range eggs which are for sale (along with Marions’ delicious homemade chutney), in the tasting room adorned with the original prints by gonzo artist Ralph Steadman.
New World meets the Loire with Elgin Sauvignon blanc, which reflect the wine making style of Niels Verburg: “minimal intervention” and the quality of the vineyard: “a good vineyard will produce good wine”. Enticing citrus aromas, gooseberries, grapefruit and minerals on the nose. Refreshingly crisp on the palate with elegant vegetal and citrusy flavours and minerality. Clean and pleasantly tart on the finish, making this a great food wine.