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At 34° south, Cape Agulhas is at the southern-most tip of Africa; from there, a vast expanse of wild ocean separates it from Antarctica. If rounding the Cape was a voyage for explorers, the Agulhas Wine Triangle is a vineyard for explorers.
Nestled in the southernmost tip of Africa, the Agulhas Wine Triangle in the Western Cape is not only home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes and unique terroirs but also to a community of wine farms dedicated to fostering the next generation of winemakers. These wine farms understand that the future of their craft lies in the hands of today’s youth and have taken proactive steps to support and nurture young talent. Here, we delve into five exceptional Cape Agulhas wine farms that are paving the way for the winemakers of tomorrow.
You really think you know a place… until you’re confronted with a new set of facts that forces you to look at it through an entirely new lens. That’s exactly what happened on a recent visit to Meerlust, a name which is arguably one of South African wine’s most recognisable, locally and abroad. For years, before the floodgates to international markets opened post-1994, Meerlust Rubicon was probably the one wine most often associated with South Africa in the export market. The Stellenbosch powerhouse set the benchmark for SA Bordeaux-style blends for everyone else to follow.
Nature’s abundance is a fitting description of Elgin, a high-lying valley, around an hour’s drive south-east of Cape Town. Many years known for its apple and pear orchards, Elgin’s cool climate is also suited to wine growing. Although vines were planted there in the 19th century, it was only in 1986 the Elgin vineyards we know today were planted on the Cluver family’s De Rust farm. Early vintages of Paul Cluver Wines were made at Nederburg; the new home-farm cellar and current winemaker, Andries Burger, being inaugurated in 1997. Their ongoing commitment to expressing the character of Elgin is recognised, in particular in Paul Cluver chardonnay and pinot noir.
Nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Western Cape lies Elgin, a region renowned for its crisp apples, serene orchards, and, of course, its exquisite vineyards. Beyond the allure of its world-class wines, Elgin's wine farms serve as vital hubs for community cohesion and upliftment. Here, amidst the rolling hills and verdant valleys, a sense of camaraderie blossoms like the vines, as wine farms play a pivotal role in bringing people together, fostering connections, and uplifting local communities.
Elgin used to be known as South Africa’s apple orchard. It still is – but the focus is not solely on the tempting fruit. Thirty years ago Nederburg’s viticulturist Ernst Le Roux took a punt on planting grapes in the area, believing that the cool valley was suited to Burgundian grapes, chardonnay and pinot noir. The valley’s destiny was altered with that decision.
This is extreme viticulture. Vines grow in Agulhas on the edge of the African continent, facing howling sea gales and rooted precariously in marginal soils. The primordial soils are said to date back over 300-million years, remnants from the ancient formation of the Cape Fold mountains. These include layers of undisturbed laterite, sandstone, shale, with pockets of quartz and limestone. These most southerly vines find themselves located between the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, where the two giant masses meet. The ominously named Black Southeaster is a constant presence, the harbinger of storms.
Wellington,
April 2024
Just a short drive from bustling Paarl, Wellington has the aura of a country town, mainly due to its primary industry of farming; wine and table grapes form the main crops with deciduous fruit. As an adjunct to wine, there’s a major brandy distiller on the edge of town.
Welcome, wine lovers and do-gooders alike! Today, we're raising our glasses to a cause that's close to our hearts: wine for good in South Africa's vibrant wine industry. Get ready to uncork the magic of giving back while enjoying the finest wines that Wellington in the Western Cape, has to offer!
Amandla!,
April 2024
If your inner voice didn’t automatically respond “Awethu!” to that headline, then you’ve not been around South African struggle politics or political demonstrations much.
70 kilometres east of Cape Town, the landscape changes dramatically over the boundary of Sir Lowry’s Pass. Into the heart of ancient sandstone Hottentots Holland mountains, the hills start to shade in greener. The abundant nature and veritable forests of fynbos are thanks to the surrounding Kogelberg Biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage site. At the centre of this 3000-hectare nature reserve Elgin’s vineyards correspondingly adhere to sustainable practices; such as the Biodiversity Wine Initiative (BWI) scheme as well as the Integrated Production of Wine system (IPW). The 20 estates all have an overarching commitment to eco-friendly viticulture.
Taming the Karoo,
March 2024
‘Where is the Karoo?’ One might ask this question, as there is no exact definition; generally, this arid to semi-arid region covers part of the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape Provinces.
Perspective is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, “a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view”. Recently, accompanying a group of 15 American wine enthusiasts, all members of the Napa Valley Wine School, provided an interesting view of something that we, as South African wine lovers and consumers, almost overlook every time a bottle is opened. And that’s the sustainability seal, that little green protea graphic with a bunch of numbers which is affixed to every bottle of South African wine and what it means.
SIPPING WITH PURPOSE | Fairtrade Wines and the Top 4 Karoo Delights in the Western Cape to enjoy them at!
Carve up from Cape Town along the storied Route 62 and watch as the landscape stacks ever skyward, the mountains scaling up as the road whips through. These ancient monoliths are some of the highest in the Western Cape and inform the viticulture here. The soils crumble down, Table Mountain sandstone, granite, Bokkeveld shale. They command the weather too, casting rain shadows, directing cloud formation. The rocky curves twist and fold along the river creating pockets, valleys and kloofs, little oases for vineyards in this otherwise dry, desert region.
Fryer's Cove,
February 2024
Many of the Cape’s vineyards claim to be ‘within sight of the sea’; few lie as close to the sea’s edge as those of Fryer’s Cove, a mere 500 metres from the Atlantic Ocean in the West Coast’s Doring Bay.
Hey wine enthusiasts, gather around because it's time to celebrate a special occasion - South Africa's Wine Birthday! That's right, this vibrant nation has been producing delicious wines for centuries, and what better way to honour this tradition than by raising a glass (or two) in celebration? If you're looking to indulge in some exceptional wine experiences, the picturesque West Coast of Cape Town is where you need to be!
Look both ways,
February 2024
Look right, look left – and look right again. That was always the advice drilled into children before crossing the road.
“Terroir exists in the skins and the stalks,” asserts Dan Colombo when asked about terroir versus technique when it comes to skin-contact, oxidative wines. This is the first time the young winemaker (just over the edge of 30), is showing his full line-up of wines in one sitting. The eponymous range are all minimalist, texture-driven, skin-contact wines. Colombo says he keeps the sense of site intact by extracting whole bunches ‘very lightly’.
Cederberg Wines,
January 2024
The beauty of the winelands delights all who visit the Cape; it’s a beauty distinctive to each area, making it unnecessarily difficult to pick a favourite.
The Western Cape of South Africa is known for its beautiful scenery, warm weather, and of course, delicious wine. The wine industry in the Western Cape dates back to the 17th century when the Dutch East India Company established a refreshment station at the Cape. They quickly realized the potential for wine production due to the Mediterranean-like climate and rich soils.
Harvest 2024,
January 2024
The festive season for South African sparkling wine producers is usually shorter than some of their still wine making compatriots. While some winemakers are still standing ankle-deep in beach sand with a fishing rod in hand, enjoying well-deserved time off, others have to pack up the bikes and boogie boards to get back to the winery. That’s because the grapes destined for Cap Classique need to be picked earlier than Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay or Merlot. The first week in January is when the first bunches are snipped from the vines – and already social media has reflected photos of the first truck loads of grapes making it to the winery.