Monday, August 31, 2015

Great fun on a wine tour to cool Elgin

Most of the tours we conduct go, by the clients' choice, to the most well-known (to foreign visitors) areas, such as Stellenbosch. As most of our readers know, we go there very often. Stellenbosch, in itself, can be seen as a generic term because it is a large area with many very different terroirs. While it has a huge number of wonderful wine producers, it is quite close to home and therefore convenient. It also claims a massive share of the South African wine industry limelight and some other areas get lost in its shadow.
Which is why we really enjoy taking visitors to some of those other areas. Recently, we had the opportunity to take a party of American and South African wine enthusiasts to Elgin. The same party came with us to Durbanville earlier this year, having toured in Constantia and Stellenbosch on other visits. This time, we started at Paul Cluver. Cellarmaster Andries Burger had to be in Johannesburg, but he put us into the very capable hands of their Sales manager, Shaun McVey, who showed us the cellar and their wines with great enthusiasm and knowledge of his subject

Shaun showed us the winemaking equipment
and then took us through the cellar, telling us about the way the wines are matured, the wood used in the barrels and what goes into the wines they produce. In addition to wine, Paul Cluver also make cider and apple brandy, apples being an important crop for most Elgin farmers
Then, in a private tasting venue, Shaun took us through the wines produced at Paul Cluver. Our visitors were accustomed to tasting what they regard as typical South African varietals, Shiraz, Cabernet sauvignon, etc. Here, they were able to experience wonderful wines made from varietals which grow best in a cool climate; Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which can compete with the best from other areas internationally. They were especially impressed with the flagship Seven Flags Pinot noir and arranged to have it shipped to them in Michigan

The Paul Cluver wines we tasted: Sauvignon blanc, Gewürztraminer, three Rieslings (including the Noble Late Harvest), Chardonnay and three Pinot Noirs
From Paul Cluver, we moved on to visit Sean Skibbe, winemaker at South Hill. We have known Sean since he called on us at our shop in South Hill’s early days, when he doubled as winemaker and sales rep and convinced us of the quality of his Sauvignon blanc and, later, his Cabernet sauvignon. His brief has expanded and he now makes wines under the label of Kevin King, South Hill’s owner, in addition to the original South Hill wines. The farm was planted with a variety of wine cultivars and Sean now makes a variety of wines under the Kevin King label from Barbera, Malbec, Mourvedre, Pinot noir, Semillon and Syrah as well as the two original sauvignon varietals. He took us through a most informative tasting of his wines
For anyone looking for food, Elgin shuts down on Mondays, probably because they are a popular weekend destination. They have a variety of really good places to stop for lunch, but they all close on Monday and Tuesday. Thank heavens for the Peregrine farm stall, a very important local landmark. This is not just a roadside stop for a quick refreshment. It has a very good bakery, sells excellent local fresh veg and meat products and a good selection of wines from the area. Last year, they had a devastating fire, probably sourced in the pizza oven, which destroyed the restaurant. They rebuilt remarkably quickly and this was our stop for lunch
One of our Americans, looking for something typically local, chose the Boerewors roll, made with the famed Grabouw wors from the local butchery, served with chips and salad
The ladies in the party opted for the Falafel, served with salad and a goats’ cheese dip
The other boys chose the delicious springbok pie, the local piece de Resistance
The chips were not as well done as we would have liked. The Cape penchant for underdone, half cooked, “slap” chips strikes again, despite "well done" being on the order! But great value
A good lunch for six people for R 590 plus tip, which is $44, €39 or £29
Then we were off to see Paul and Nicky Wallace at Wallovale and taste their wines. Paul is consultant viticulturalist to a large number of wine producers and Nicky has been involved in the sharp end of wine marketing for many years. At Wallovale he specialises in Malbec - his Black Dog Malbec is excellent - but also produces very good Sauvignon blanc, Pinot Noir and a red blend. The party liked the Black Dog so much that they bought nine cases
Paul Wallace with his son Mark, who is assistant winemaker at Hamilton Russell in the Hemel en Aarde Valley
Dr Steve with Paul Wallace
The party in jovial mood before returning home
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015
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