From a wine production standpoint, South Africa is an incredibly interesting and undervalued country. Historically, the vast majority of its output was ordinary, inexpensive table wines destined for discount retail outlets around the world. And while that category of South African wine still exists, the country’s reputation is now driven by quality-focused producers making some of the finest, most dynamic wines available.
South Africa produces approximately equal parts white and red grapes, known as cultivars. The most popular among them are Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and the polarizing South African creation, Pinotage. The country is divided into 6 primary wine regions which are further broken down into 60+ appellations or districts. The climate is generally considered Mediterranean, but coastal currants from Antarctica and mountains that dot the landscape cool down vineyards and create opportunity for elegance and structure in the wines.
Elgin is the coolest wine region in South Africa, with temperatures rarely rising above 30°C during the growing season. With only 800 ha. under vine, it is also one of the smallest (only 18 producers) and least-planted, as the rocky terrain, cool temperatures and low rainfall make growing grapes a challenging endeavour. Sitting amongst the Hottentot-Holland mountain range, the soils are a mixture of sandstone, decomposed shale, gravel and clay. Due to the precipitous diurnal temperature drops, viticulturists have eschewed the traditional red Bordeaux varieties favoured throughout most of South Africa, planting instead delicate Pinot Noir and altitude-loving Syrah. The most widely-planted white is Sauvignon Blanc, and increasing volumes of Riesling are showing tremendous promise, but the future of the region lies in Chardonnay. Elgin wines tend to be high in acidity, with evolved flavours, as the long hang times allow full phenol development.
The patriarch of Elgin Valley wines is Paul Cluver. His family-owned, family-run property has been in the hands of the Cluver family since 1896. The focus is on producing elegant wines that express the region’s terroir: ideal conditions for world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The winery forms part of a larger holistic farming business called ‘De Rust Estate’. In addition to the vineyards and cellar, there are apple and pear orchards, a Hereford stud and eco-tourism activities, including amphitheatre concerts on the farm. This 2000+ hectare estate forms part of the Kogelberg Biosphere, a UNESCO world heritage site. Half of the estate has been set aside for conservation into perpetuity.
Buyers+Cellars is extremely proud to represent Paul and his team here in Ontario. Their wines, their vision and their focus on sustainability exemplify everything we value in our wine partnerships. And we are excited to announce the VINTAGES Online & Flagship Exclusive release of their highly acclaimed 2020 Estate Chardonnay.
Elgin’s cool climate provides the basic framework for world-class Chardonnay. These grapes are sourced from the estate’s oldest vines, planted in 1987 on decomposed Bokkeveld shale, a soil type that amplifies aromas, structure and concentration in wines. Grapes were whole-bunch pressed and settled naturally overnight, then transferred to French oak barrels for wild-yeast fermentation. The wine then spent 9 months on its lees without any sulpher addition before an assemblage from the best barrels was made.
It leads with aromas of citrus, melon and toasted brioche, alongside subtler notes of tangerine, vanilla pod and almond flakes. The palate is mid-weight with zesty acids and a salty, mineral-inflected finish. Enjoy on its own on cool Autumn nights, or alongside roast chicken, game birds or creamy pastas. This will also work wonderfully on your traditional Thanksgiving dinner table.
SHOP PAUL CLUVER: https://www.lcbo.com/en/paul-cluver-estate-chardonnay-2017-570952