Elgin under a cloud

On May 28, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

Living in Elgin, Cape carries a price. Summer is more often grey and gloomy than not. You could well be living in Elgin, Scotland. If you get invited, bring a jersey. You might need it.

I guess that many of Elgin’s homes are empty at the weekend. Everyone’s gone to look for some sun. You don’t have to go far.

Elgin South Easter three 02 10

This is sunrise on a summer’s day on the road from Cape Town to Elgin. The vineyards of Elgin and Grabouw are ten to fifteen kilometres east of this point. They are blanketed by the cloud formation, regularly lowered over them by the the Cape’s summer South Easter. They won’t see the sun all day. 

This particular day, after the cold and windy Pinot noir grape-harvesting, just a 10 minute drive back towards Cape Town brought clear blue skies and sunburn warnings. At midday in Stellenbosch, the temperature was 34 degrees C. At the same time in the Pinot noir vineyard at was 18.

What isn’t fun for people seems to be good for the finicky Pinot. A constant cloud cover doesn’t stop photosynthesis, just slows it down. The longer the bunches hang on the vine, waiting for ripeness, the better everything works.

Pinot Noir Rowey Elgin b&w 02 10

The Pinot noir vineyard is exposed, on the 350m. altitude crest of a ridge. The ocean is about 8km away, in a line with the right edge of the picture

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Until the present generation, Sauvignon Blanc was seen as a niche variety, best grown only on the upcountry reaches of France’s Loire River, east of the chateaux of the kings.

This was read to mean that Sauvignon only felt at home in cold climates (have you been up the Loire without a jersey?).

And then came Marlborough in New Zealand. And now many places in South Africa. All making Sauvignon that stops the traffic. The only terroir issue that these places have in common  is moderate maximum temperatures during ripening.

Most of the main Southern Hemisphere vineyards are close to the sea. That’s a moderating influence – low max and high min temperatures.

079   With a bit of effort, you can see Table Bay, through the blue summer haze, in the top right of the picture. This wonderful Sauvignon block at Diemersdal in Durbanville has maritime influence from both Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

On the creative front, it seems that winemakers of great Sauvignon are born that way. Every top winemaker in South Africa and New Zealand wants to make a 5 star Sauvignon Blanc. Not every one does. And many of the successful ones can do it wherever they find a good vineyard.