Elgin Ridge, a biodynamic pioneer in South Africa's Elgin region

Elgin Ridge winery from the air

Elgin Ridge winery from the air

Brian and Marion Smith are biodynamic pioneers in the Elgin Valley, with their Elgin Ridge wine estate. I visited them for a look around the vineyards with vineyard manager Taurai Matunbwa, and then a tasting with winemaker Kosie van de Merwe. I really like what’s going on here, and in particular the Pinot Noir and sparkling are very interesting. The Sauvignon is made in a more complex and interesting style than most in South Africa, which sometimes counts against it in competitions, but it’s an interesting drink.

Brina Smith, vineyard manager Taurai Matunbwa and Marion Smith, Elgin Ridge

Brina Smith, vineyard manager Taurai Matunbwa and Marion Smith, Elgin Ridge

For the Sauvignon Blanc, whch is the bulk of production, the 2016 vintage was a warm one, but the wines showed good retention of acidity. The cool weather in February saved the vintage, and harvest was in the first week of March. ‘We harvest on taste because we want ripe flavours,’ says Koysie. They open up the canopy quite a bit promoting thiol precursors, and pH was around 3.3 with acids at 5.4-6.

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This year, the must was settled for three days and no enzymes were used. Juice washeated up to 15 C for fermentation to start, and Kosie tried to keep it there as it progressed. Biodynamics allows the use of a yeast nutrient called 2B Fermcontrol, which is really useful.

Elgin Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Elgin, South Africa
(Tank sample) Left for 9 months on lees, natural ferment, 5% Semillon. 7% aged in concrete egg. Ripe but very fresh with subtle herbs, and rich pear and apple fruit, as well as some white peach. Has nice palate weight kept fresh with some grapefruit character. 90-92/100

Elgin Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Elgin, South Africa
This was a challenging year which required rigorous selection in the vineyard, and the final wine had some botrytised fruit in it. Half the normal quantity made. Very pure, fresh citrus, pear, spice and ripe apple notes with a touch of apricot and maybe a bit of sweetness. Textured with melon and peach skin characters. 91/100

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Elgin Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Elgin, South Africa
14.5% alcohol. Very pure, fresh citrus and pear fruit on the nose with some passionfruit richness. Fresh and detailed on the palate. Quite delicate and precise with lovely citrus and passionfruit, and some fruit sweetness. Some alcohol evident. 92/100

Elgin Ridge Chardonnay 2016 Elgin, South Africa (cask sample of final blend)
6 barrels made, 1 of which is new. Very linear and spicy with nice citrus and some pear fruit, with apple and spice. Zippy and vigorous with some some oak. Lovely. 92-94/100

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The next wine was interesting: it’s a blend of 60% Sauvignon and 40% Semillon, fermented in an upturned barrels with a third whole bunch, made red wine style. As soon as it begins to taste phenolic, Kosie presses it off to tank, and then it goes to barrel.

Elgin Ridge Sauvignon Semillon 2016 Elgin, South Africa
(Cask sample) Very compacy with spice and citrus notes, showing good concentration. Lively and focused with fine spiciness and lovely precision. There are some floral hints on the nose and just a touch of good green. Multilayered. 92-94/100

Elgin Ridge Pinot Noir 2016 Elgin, South Africa
(Cask sample) First vintage was 2012, and the vines are now seven years old. Lots of fruit was dropped this year and there was a lot of sorting. 777 clone is punched down lightly and goes to stainless steel. 667 is fermented in 500 litre bins with 12% whole bunch on top. 115 goes into the concrete egg. Nice sweet red cherries and plums with some elegance. Very fresh and supple, and really nicely expressive. 91-93/100

Elgin Ridge MCC 2011 Elgin, South Africa
12.5% alcohol. Such a distinctive fizz. 83% Pinot Noir and 17% Chardonnay, with the base wine made oxidatively, fermented in stainless steel and going to barrel for 2 years, stirred every 3 weeks. Then the wine spend 3 years in bottle on lees with zero dosage. Full yellow colour with a hint of pink. Intense but delicate too, with ripe apple, pear and a hint of strawberry. Lovely texture with some almond and apricot. 91/100

UK agent: Les Caves de Pyrene
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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