Elim explored

By , 7 June 2011



Cape Agulahs lighthouse

Cape Agulahs lighthouse.

As featured in the June issue of Decanter: Though lighthouses as aids to navigation are all but redundant due to GPS, the one at Cape Agulhas will surely not fall into complete disrepair, it being the southern tip of Africa’s distinguishing landmark. Built in 1848, it is South Africa’s second oldest and is today a national monument; walk a little distance from the lighthouse and you come to a plaque marking the official meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

For wine enthusiasts, there’s now even more reason to take note of the area. Though viticulture has only been practiced here for some 15 years, the resulting wines are already impressing industry observers, as indicated by them starting to appear regularly among the 5-Star laureates in respected local wine guide Platter’s (the 2008 white blend known as The Weathergirl from The Berrio in the 2010 edition, the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from The Berrio plus the 2009 white blend Adamastor from Strandveld in 2011).

Most of the vineyards in the district of Cape Agulhas fall within the ward of Elim (after the town of the same name, originally a Moravian mission settlement) and it is thus this specific appellation that forms the focus of this article (which is not to say there are no noteworthy producers in the greater Cape Agulhas area – both Lomond near Gansbaai and vineyards belonging to Stellenbosch winery Quoin Rock outside of Bredasdorp are producing noteworthy wines).

The story begins in the mid-1990s, the period which saw the end of KWV’s stranglehold over the industry. Until then one of the many powers exercised by the central co-operative was to determine where wine producing grapes could be grown. The political transformation occurring at that time facilitated wine industry deregulation and this, in turn, lead to the map of the Cape winelands being significantly redrawn.

Charles Hopkins (winemaker then of Bellingham, later of Graham Beck and now of De Grendel), Hein Koegelenberg (MD of Franschhoek winery La Motte) as well as one or two other forward-thinking individuals became interested in the potential of Elim – there was a growing awareness of the merits of cool-climate viticulture and they thought the strong onshore winds which prevailed there during summer would give them exactly that.  They partnered with farmers in the area, the first vines being planted in 1996 and the first release of a wine under the Land’s End label being a Sauvignon Blanc 2000. (more…)


1 comment(s)

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    dionysus | 7 June 2011

    Interesting piece. Got me thinking about wards, districts etc. Hermanuspietersfontein is in the Sandys Glen ward, this falls under the Walkey Bay District. Geographically it is closer to Elim and surely should be part of Elim and the Agulhas District? Also the guys in Stanford don’t have a ward of their own, they fall under the Walker Bay District yet Raka up the road has their own ward, falling under Klein River…What ward would Jean Daneel of Napier fall under when he starts making wines from his own vineyards? All enough to make you drink!

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