From water into wine, the key of the Elgin Valley


These within the know have stored the secrets and techniques of the Elgin Valley near their hearts. However with the cult following at the moment loved by cool-climate wines, that’s set to alter. Stepping onto the stage is one among this unspoiled, pleasant area’s shyest stars. Meet South Hill Vineyards.

When South Africa’s most revolutionary bottled water producer, Aquasky, went looking for a sustainable supply of premium mineral water, they discovered it on a farm on the finish of a bucolic nation highway.  

Africa Capital Group (Pty) Ltd produces water from the air for his or her model Aquasky, which is bought predominantly to eating places and wineries. Covid uncovered the necessity for a further, consumer-focused product, and MD Brendan Williamson checked out greater than 100 farms – from Franschhoek to Tulbagh – earlier than he discovered South Hill Vineyards in Elgin. There, he found far more than the aquifers he was looking for: among the coolest wines in South Africa. 

There’s a world swing to cool-climate wines and South Hill Vineyards winemaker Sean Skibbe explains that Elgin is without doubt one of the coolest, if not the good, wine-growing area in South Africa. For this reason it produces such distinctive wines, and why wine-makers from hotter areas clamour for South Hill’s grapes. 

“Take Sauvignon Blanc,” Skibbe says. “When grown in hotter areas, the grapes peak early and should be harvested under-ripe and nonetheless inexperienced to protect their unstable freshness. There are tips that can be utilized within the cellar to compensate, and these wines could have a superb, fragrant bouquet when younger, however  they’re usually a bit skinny on the palate and have a tendency to have a greener, extra acidic profile with a  restricted potential to age.”

“Sauvignon from Elgin is totally totally different – it’s fruity, softer, nonetheless crisp and contemporary, however not acidic. And it has longevity. Our 2021 SB is consuming fantastically now, and even higher than it was 12 months in the past – and it was nice then. 

“There isn’t any substitute for a cool local weather,” he continues. It slows down the ripening so we harvest later, which permits the grapes to develop extra flavours, which results in better-bodied, fruity wines…

“Elgin is a tiny area – lower than 1% of SA’s wine-growing space. It has been South Africa’s best-kept wine secret for too lengthy,” he says. “It’s a good looking space, providing an genuine expertise the place hospitable folks craft distinctive wines. At many tastings within the valley, you’re more likely to be hosted by an proprietor or the winemaker – somebody with an actual funding in that farm and that wine.”

Skibbe has been with South Hill since its maiden classic. He notes that the earlier homeowners have left South Hill with an excellent legacy, many loyal prospects and an enormous alternative to construct and develop the wine enterprise. “The wine has all the time been within the background. That modifications now.”

To those that know, those that purchase South Hill wines at any time when they see them, these are glorious reds and whites which are nonetheless fairly good worth. The extremely rated South Hill vary features a Sauvignon Blanc, dry Rose, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

With all vineyards on South Hill approaching 20 years of age, there may be potential to replant, the potential to think about a brand new vary, construct the export market, and push the premium nature of the wine. The holy grail for Skibbe is to craft “an unimaginable, distinctive wine – the perfect this area can produce”.

As he says this, Williamson is nodding. “Sean can construct a premium product – he has the monitor document and the expertise. We’re going to present him the instruments to do it.” 

South Hill affords tastings from Wednesday to Sunday (in addition to quite a lot of distinctive lodging choices – together with a houseboat on one of many pure, perennial dams on the farm). For now, tastings could be loved at a desk within the restaurant, exterior within the backyard and even throughout the wine maze, which is studded with fascinating nuggets of wine data. 

There’s a relaxed environment right here. There may be loads of kinds, and sweetness in abundance, however zero pomp and the one ceremony is noticed on the many weddings that happen on this spectacular setting.

“From the start, I’ve all the time needed to make wines which are accessible however complicated sufficient for somebody who desires a bit bit extra. That’s this entire farm: it’s accessible however attention-grabbing sufficient to fulfill even essentially the most discerning of consumers,” says Skibbe.

There are plans to construct a brand new tasting room on the sting of the highest dam, trying down the size of the extremely lovely Elgin Valley. For the cult followers of South Hill wines, it’s a bit poignant to know that extra folks will quickly be taught the secrets and techniques held right here. However it’s time. 

For extra info on South Hill Vineyards, please go to or name  (+27) 21 844 0888.



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