ORIGIN OF “ELGIN” – In the late 1800s, a locally-born child named “Elgine Herold” was killed by snakebite near the Palmiet River. Her distraught father named the area of land “Elgin” in his daughter’s memory, with support from other locals.
Two main events caused this name eventually to be used for the entire valley. Firstly, when the earliest railway was built through the area, it was found that this plot of land was the most suitable for a railway station, and the station was consequently also named “Elgin”. For decades, this station provided the main connection between the people and produce of the valley, and the outside world. The name therefore became known around the world due to Elgin’s famous agricultural produce. Secondly, two young brothers had bought a small plot of land here named “Glen Elgin” in 1903, where they grew vegetables. The Molteno brothers were partially responsible for revolutionising the region’s deciduous farming industry and, in an unusual move in the 1950s, they ordered that their vast “Glen Elgin” farming enterprise was to be divided up and returned “…to Elgin’s farmworkers and inhabitants for their own use.”The name “Elgin” thereby gained a certain significance, as the name by which some of the region’s land first began to be shared with the majority. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elgin,_Western_Cape)
GEOGRAPHY OF ELGIN VALLEY
Elgin is situated close to the Southern Cape Coast between Sir Lowry’s Pass in the south east (outside Somerset West) to Bot River (en route to Hermanus) and Villiersdorp to the north west in the Overberg region. It is about 70km east of Cape Town, just beyond the Hottentots Holland mountain range and is centred around the village of Grabouw.
The Elgin Valley topography is bowl-shaped and elevated from 350m to 500m above sea level and is totally surrounded by a rim of rugged mountains that form part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site. It is the 4th highest altitude in South Africa and lies approximately 20 km away from the Atlantic Ocean with its cold Benguela current. The prevailing south easterly wind brings cool, maritime air into the Valley bowl and is trapped under an almost permanent cloud cover that keeps the average temperatures cooler than the rest of the wine growing region.
CLIMATE OF ELGIN VALLEY
SOIL OF ELGIN VALLEY
The varieties best suited to cool climate like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir are usually grown on east facing slopes with morning sunlight while the more robust reds like Merlot and Syrah require warm afternoon west facing slopes to ripen completely.
Vines grown in cool climate Elgin are generally harvested 3 weeks to a month after Stellenbosch and Paarl.
After spending many years focusing on Pinot from every site in the Western Cape, from Stellenbosch to the Outeniqua Mountains, it was clear that the Elgin Valley was the place that best suited the style of wines that we liked to create. Given the threat of global warming on our craft, it seems more and more likely that cool climates are necessary to produce wines of finesse, purity and vibrancy. Most of the attention is on ‘farming for flavour’ where vineyard husbandry is the focus.