Yesterday a workshop featuring 39 red wines (11 examples of Pinot Noir, three Merlot, 10 Shiraz, three Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 red blends, one Cabernet Franc and one Malbec) from Elgin to explore if collectively any “sense of place” was in evidence.
The guest panel was chaired by Richard Kershaw MW (now an Elgin producer himself) and included sommeliers Neil Grant, Higgo Jacobs and James Pietersen, chef Harald Bresselschmidt, Cape Wine Master Winnie Bowman and journalists Joanne Gibson and me.
Participating wineries meanwhile included Almenkerk, Belfield, Botanica, Catherine Marshall, Corder Wines, Elgin Vintners, Hannay , Highlands Road, Iona, Lothian Vineyards, Oak Valley, Oneiric , Paul Cluver, Paul Wallace, Shannon Vineyards, South Hill, Sutherland Vineyards, William Everson and Winters Drift.
The exercise seemed to generate more questions than answers. Elgin, being cool-climate, wants to take ownership of elegance but in too many cases the wines weren’t so much graceful and stylish but “lacking in stuffing” to use the words of facilitator Kershaw. While the Pinot showed promise (as might have been expected), many of the wines which featured the Bordeaux varieties were either green (never got ripe) or were over-done (as if the producer tried too hard to avoid green-ness).
Other issues that presented themselves were how to take account of 1) the fact that Elgin is not at all uniform but possesses a variety of soils and aspects and 2) vintage variation – the line-up of wines ranging from 2007 to 2012.
Of course, Elgin is a young district, the average age of vines currently a mere three years old according to Chris Rawbone-Viljoen of Oak Valley, and there is a sense about the wines of a work in progress. That the producers of Elgin are prepared to convene such a workshop and accept feedback which was often not as cheering as they might have hoped for is entirely commendable.