One of the star wine-makers we've had the good pleasure of hosting Quaranvino has been Master of Wine Richard Kershaw who presented his virtual winery and wines from Elgin, the coolest wine-making region in South Africa. Located about 70km East of Cape Town, Elgin is drawing a lot of attention, fast becoming one of the most prestigious wine regions in the southern hemisphere. Here's what makes it so special…
- It’s really cool… whilst daytime temperatures can easily reach over 40 degrees in Stellenbosch, Elgin may only see 35 degrees for a couple of hours a year. Cool average temperature mean that grapes ripen very slowly, locking in delicious aromatic compounds.
- It rains cats and dogs. Elgin is rainier than London or Paris. With over 1000m of annual rainfall it beats many famous winemaking regions (Burgundy sees around 650mm, whilst Bordeaux enjoys 900mm). Vines never go into water stress and the constant humidity around the vines protect the grapes and make them happy and healthy.
- Cold winters. Winter temperatures can drop to minus 4 degrees Celsius which throws the vines into hibernation and destroys any nasty bugs or disease that may be lurking in the vineyards. This down-time gives them the energy they need to make exceptional grapes when the season starts.
- Cloud cover. The high elevation and the slightly lower outer edge which is closer to the sea brings in morning mist which hangs around until the middle of the afternoon – sometimes later. This cloud protects the grapes from UVB rays prolonging the ripening period and giving the grapes chance to develop flavonoids that make wines so distinctive (as the case with Chardonnay). Baboons also love Chardonnay so once they ripen, harvesters have to move quickly before the grapes get eaten…
- Nimble Fingers. Elgin is an apple-producing region and apples grown here are the most expensive arable crop in the Southern Hemisphere. Picking apples is skilful work and the workers also harvest the grapes meaning they’re well looked after, never bruised or damaged which can lead to mould and rot.
Besides soil, climate and terroir, wine-makers can play with rootstock and clones to make their wines even better. In fact Richard geeks out on selecting exactly the right clone for each parcel he works with. His Clonal Selection Chardonnay is made from Clones selected from Burgundy, and is known as one of the best Burgundy-style wines in the world. It's certainly been a hit on the sessions we've hosted with him.
As all wines need food, here are a couple of pairing suggestions that we think work really well.
Do you know the wines from Elgin?