Elgin wine region: Almenkerk

almenkerk

Almenkerk began when Joep van Almenkerk moved out to South Africa from Belgium in 2002 and bought a 32 hectare apple farm. He wanted to turn it into a wine farm – apples were bad business at the time and the region was looking very promising for grapes – and he asked his son, Joris, to run it. The farm is currently run by Joris and his wife Natalie, and they’re a dynamic couple, doing a really good job here. I had great fun hanging out with them over the weekend.

The view from the winery

The view from the winery

Elgin is the only wine region in South Africa completely surrounded by mountains. The mountain ranges that fringe it like the rim on a saucer are made of table mountain sandstone, while inside the valley it’s mostly decomposed shale. There are 7000 hectares of farming land in the valley, with 6000 hectares of orchards (mostly apples, some pears), which at the moment are making good money. There are just 800 hectares of vineyards, with vines disappearing. ‘If we weren’t passionate about what we do, we’d just rip out vines and plant orchards,’ says Joris.

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‘For every cultivar, there’s a distinct Elgin style,’ says Joris. ‘A large aspect of this is the high natural acidity from the large diurnal variations.’

He points out that while there are 28 producers making Elgin wines, there are only 9 cellars in Elgin. A lot of the grapes leave the valley. Almenkerk has 15 hectares of vineyards, plus four more of apples and pears, and they’ve just planted some more apples.`

While Chardonnay is important, other varieties are too. ‘I don’t think Elgin should be a one-trick pony,’ says Joris. ‘The styles of our wines are so distinctive restaurants don’t need to bump a wine off a list to put an Elgin wine on.’

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Almenkerk Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Elgin, South Africa
This is made from a single vineyard at 305 m altitude, and it’s made reductively, with oxygen excluded at pressing and lees stirring by means of dry ice chunks. Nice texture here, with a hint of fig and some pear, with lovely citrus fruits. Some nuttiness, too. 89/100

Almenkerk Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Elgin, South Africa
Very pure and slightly saline with taut, compact, pure fruit, a bit of passionfruit, and lovely acidity. There’s pear, ripe apple and a hint of pithiness adding an extra dimension. Quite limey. 92/100

Almenkerk Chardonnay 2011 Elgin, South Africa
Complex and broad with nut, honey and pears. Ripe apples with some sweet vanilla notes, too. Attractive hints of fennel. 88/100

Almenkerk Chardonnay 2013 Elgin, South Africa (magnum)
Tight and lemony with nice spiciness. Really nice reductive framing with textured apple and pear fruit. Lovely focus to this wine. 92/100

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Almenkerk Chardonnay 2014 Elgin, South Africa
Tight, fresh and pithy. Nutty but still linear and bright with pure citrus fruit. Pear and white peach richer notes, with some oak hints. 90/100

Almenkerk Chardonnay 2015 Elgin, South Africa
Lovely complex, mealy, spicy nose. Detailed citrus fruit palate with good acidity. Fresh and vital with high acidity. Spicy, lemony finish. 92/100

Almenkerk Syrah 2012 Elgin, South Africa
Lively and fresh with nice black cherry and pepper. Bright and vivid with juicy black fruits and some good structure and weight. Grippy stuff with good acidity. 90/100

Almenkerk Merlot 2013 Elgin, South Africa
The shoulders are removed from all the bunches and the canopies are opened out in order to get these grapes ripe. Lovely sweet, supple black fruits here with some herb and undergrowth notes. Supple palate has sweet black fruits. Really attractive with some gravel and grip. 90/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

1 comment to Elgin wine region: Almenkerk

  • Hi Jamie thanks for the lovely write-up and for your enthusiasm for our lovely little Valley. You made some very valid comments and suggestions and have inspired us all more than you know. It was also great fun. Hope you’ll make it back in 2017. Nat

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