Here in Elgin, we’re famous for our outstanding “cool climate wines”, but what does that really mean? No, it does not mean that our wines can only be enjoyed on cooler days (thank goodness for that) but refers to the micro-climate in which the grapes are grown. Now, if you’ve visited our beautiful Valley before (particularly between May-November) you would have likely experienced the lovely chill that embraces you as you approach Grabouw.
Scientifically speaking, grapes don’t like temperatures that drop below 10°C and the vines will lay dormant until temperatures rise above this mark, reserving all their energy for the warmer times to follow, and because our climate tends to wean off winter much later than other wine routes (such as Stellenbosch) the vines get a much later and slower start when it comes to growing and maturing berries. The best description for this whole process and the consequences thereof is with using the comparison of growing tomatoes-
“ Imagine trying to ripen tomatoes on your patio if you live where it’s foggy daily in the summertime, and temperatures rarely rise above 30°C. Unless you’re really lucky, those are going to be some tart, green tomatoes that don’t have much flavor, right? They start out with high levels of acid, low levels of sugar and vegetative flavors. As the weeks go by the sweetness increases and the tomatoey flavor develops, providing they get enough heat and sun. So, depending upon where they’re grown they’ll ripen slowly or quickly. In a cool-climate situation there’s a risk that they never get really ripe – they’re on the tart side. In a warm climate situation there’s little difficulty getting them nice and sweet and you need to pick them before they start to get mooshy and over ripe.” (The Tasting Group Blog)
Although this might sound like bad news for vines growing in cooler areas, it makes for very interesting and unique range of flavours and aromas in the final product vastly different to its warmer climate counterpart, as well as wines that age extremely well due to the high levels of acid naturally found in the wine. As they age, the true flavour of the wine unfolds to make it complex and balanced whilst keeping their crisp freshness.
A key example of this process is of course our 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, which has become much fuller and softer whilst maintaining its typical cool-climate minerality, and which has gained many accolades to its name in recent years. Most notably the 2014 Old Mutual Trophy Award in the Museum Class (yes, we LOVE talking about this one!).
Varietals that do well in this sort of climate range from Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah and Cabernet Franc.