A visit to Elgin Vintners, & the thin slice of Elgin Wine History
Elgin doesn’t do entry-level
Elgin Vintner’s winemaker Marinda Kruger-Claassen is about to launch a new range of wines, called the Cloud Haven range. Someone asked, “is this your entry level wine?”
“No,” she retorted. “ElginVintners doesn’t do Entry Level.” I feel like this is an apt sentiment to sum up Elgin as a whole.
Now there’s an old (old, old) joke that goes something like…
“How do you make a small fortune?”
“You start with a big fortune and then launch wine brand.” Tom, kick, crash.
Now I don’t believe for one second that our best and brightest wine brands all run at a loss, but what I do believe is that there are more efficient ways to make money than to run boutique wineries.
I know this situation is not unique to Elgin. But in Elgin, the contrast between the big apple and pear orchards (along with their hefty rand/hectare reward ratio) versus the meagre allotment of vineyards seems particularly stark.
Perhaps it is the zero-sum nature of the history of farming in the valley, but Elgin seems to possess a particularly low ratio of “filler” estates. The quality of the wines coming out of this area punches lightyears above the vineyard contribution (only 800 hectares out of a national vineyard of 90,000-odd hectares), and my theory is that this is precisely because of the sheer economics of it all. Over the past 25 years, the people who have chosen to grow grapes here, and make wine here, are doing so explicitly for the satisfaction that comes the mysterious alchemy of the winemaking process (and with direct opportunity cost); allowing nature to do its thing, and bottling some of the magic as it passes by us.
Some more wines to hunt
Elgin Vintners are no the only ones doing great things in the valley. They just happen to be a particularly neat, well-branded, outfit, and so my focus today is on them.
My Highlights from their range:
* Elgin Vintners Chardonnay 2018
* RidgeLand Sandstone Sauvignon Blanc 2019
* Elgin Vintners Merlot 2016