Find out what to expect when visiting South Africa’s cool-climate wine growing area of Elgin – the best wineries to visit in Elgin Wine Valley.
I am still in love with South Africa’s major historic wine areas. And with more than over 400 wineries across this particular area, comprising Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Constantia, there will always be a reason to return and discover something new and exciting.
This is not holding me back from discovering other wine regions across the Western Cape, and I can only urge you to do the same!
During a recent visit, I finally made it ‘over the mountain’ as the locals put it, to visit South Africa’s celebrated cool-climate wine region of Elgin in the Overberg.
How to get to Elgin Valley wine country in South Africa
Located only around 75 kilometres east of Cape Town, getting to Elgin Valley will take you roughly one hour the N2 via the scenic Sir Lowry Pass. Which makes the area an interesting location for a day trip as well.
As with most of South Africa’s smaller towns or rural areas, public transport to and within the Overberg area is limited. So your best bet is to have your own (rental) car.
Also keep in mind when driving around the valley, several of the wineries are located along unpaved roads. Whilst these roads are easily navigable with any car (no 4×4 or off-road vehicles needed), this means driving at low speed over extended kilometres.
A short history of wine growing in Elgin
Elgin is the coolest wine region in South Africa – in terms of climate – making it the ideal destination to grow Chardonnay for which the area is already widely recognized.
Tucked away between the Hottentots Holland mountains, the Houwhoek mountains, the Kogelberg mountains and Groenland mountains,Elgin is the only South African wine region surrounded by four mountain ranges, and with the cold Atlantic Ocean only about ten kilometres away, this is creating a unique microclimate that helps to produce spectacular wines.
Whilst historically the area is South Africa’s largest producer of apples, wine growing in Elgin also goes back a long way. It was in1898 that Sir Antonie Viljoen started to plant the first vines at Oak Valley farm.
It took until the mid-1980s however until wine production started to seriously take off in the area and several of today’s leading wine farms came to life only in the early 2000s.
Being late to the game if you like meant wineries in Elgin benefited from previously developed extensive research and modern technology to select the ideal grape varieties to be grown on the most fitting soil types across the valley’s different micro-locations.
What to know about winery visits in Elgin
Elgin is part of the recently created first biodiversity wine route in the world. Also called the Green Mountain Eco Route it includes the Elgin Valley, Grabouw, Bot River, Houw Hoek and Villiersdorp.
In terms of winery visits, the Elgin area is still a bit more closed than the highly touristy Stellenbosch-Franschhoek area.
Even though there are a couple of wineries in Elgin run by the well-established names originating in the historic Cape Winelands area like Boschendal, Neil Ellis and Vrede En Lust, these farms currently do not receive visitors here.
A few others require prior appointments if you wish to visit.
Still there are a number of really excellent wineries open to visitors on a regular schedule; and they are a real treat to visit. Several even offer food / restaurants and accommodation on-site.
Four lovely boutique wineries to visit in Elgin
Oak Valley Estate
If you wonder where to start your wine tasting in the Elgin Valley, I’d urge you to start right where wine growing took off in the area.
Founded in 1898 by Sir Antonie Viljoen, Oak Valley Estate is the oldest wine farm in Elgin. Sir Antonie also established the first commercial apple orchard in the valley. Apples are indeed also grown on-site to this day at Oak Valley, as they are at many of the other wineries too.
Initially only selling grapes, Oak Valley established its own wine label in the early 2000s.
It’s safe to say, the tasting room including a deli and the lovely Pool Room restaurant (which is currently closed) is one of the most gorgeous tasting facilities I’ve visited so far. I could have stayed here the whole day, sipping at some wine and just forget about time.
Paul Cluver Wines
Once letting a small production site behind you that you need to pass in order to enter the wine farm, you will first pass a long alley bordered by a large apple orchard yielding to the area’s history of the country’s major apple producing area.
That said, Paul Cluver Wines was established by the Cluver family in 1896 already and is now run by the 4th generation.
The winery is actually part of a larger estate, the De Rust Estate which includes also apple and pear orchard as well as a Herford stud farm.
As for Paul Cluver wines, the winery has been one of the leading producers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ever since and today has a strong focus on sustainability in their farming processes.
There are a couple of tasting options, including an excellent food pairing you should definitely try.
Next to the tasting room, the small SALT restaurant offers a menu which is based around – you might guess it – food that is enhanced by salt.
South Hill Cool Climate Vineyards
This small boutique winery offers one of the most complete one-stop experiences in the Elgin Valley.
Winery, tasting room, restaurant (serving breakfast and a tapas lunch) along with on-site luxury accommodation and an art gallery featuring changing exhibitions of local artists, you can spend hours on the estate without getting bored.
I’d definitely recommend to plan your visit around lunchtime and head to the absolutely gorgeous restaurant. And if you are an art lover, the pieces on display here are up for sale.
Open daily, 8 am – 5 pm
Charles Fox Cap Classique Wine Estate
The name really says it all. Cape Classique wines refer to sparkling wines produced according to the traditional Champagne method. They are called Methode Cape Classique (or MCC as they are typically referred to in South Africa) because of the protected name of Champagne wines, which can be only called Champagne if grown in the region of Champagne in France.
Founded in 2005 on the grounds of a former fruit farm, Charles Fox is one of the few sparkling wine producers in the Elgin area. Today, it produces a range of excellent MCCs including a reserve brut, reserve brut rose, vintage brut, vintage brut rose as well as the two flagship blanc de blancs and Cipher.
A cosy small tasting room with some intriguing interior twist or the outdoor patio offering some amazing views over the Elgin valley are perfect for an indulgent Cape Classique tasting; choosing from a range of three different tasting options: the premium, super premium or full house tastings.
Open daily 10 am – 4 pm
Have you been to Elgin Valley and its lovely little wineries yet? Let me know about your experience.