This family-owned, family-run wine business is located approximately 70km south-east of Cape Town. The property has been owned by the Cluver Family – recognized as pioneers of wine in the area – since 1896. The focus here is on producing elegant wines that are expressive of the terroir. The cool Elgin Valley provides the ideal conditions for world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The wine business forms part of larger holistic farming business called ‘De Rust Estate’. In addition to the vineyards and cellar, there are apple and pear orchards, a Hereford stud and eco-tourism activities, including amphitheatre concerts on the farm. This 2000+ hectare estate forms part of the Kogelberg Biosphere, a UNESCO world heritage site. Half of the estate has been set aside for conservation into perpetuity.
Elgin is the coolest growing region in South Africa, with temperatures rarely rising above 30°C during the growing season. With only 800 ha. under vine, it is also one of the smallest and least planted, as the rocky terrain, cool temperatures and low rainfall make growing grapes a challenging endeavour. Sitting amongst the Hottentot-Holland mountain range, the soils are a mixture of sandstone, decomposed shale, gravel and clay. Due to the precipitous diurnal temperature drops, viticulturists have eschewed the traditional red Bordeaux varieties favoured throughout most of South Africa, planting instead delicate Pinot Noir and altitude-loving Syrah. The most widely-planted white is Sauvignon Blanc, but the future of the region lies in Chardonnay, with world class examples being crafted. Riesling plantings are increasing and showing tremendous promise. Elgin wines tend to be high in acidity, with evolved flavours, as the long hang times allow full phenol development.
The De Rust Estate vineyards of Paul Cluver Family Wines sit on an inland mountain plateau, nestled in the UNESCO Koelberg Biosphere Preserve. Rising between 400-660 masl., they are a mix of the famed Bokkeveld Shale (sandstone rich with invertebrate fossils, clay and loam) and Fericrete gravel (rich in iron oxides). Subject to early morning mists, cool evenings, low rainfall and long sunlight hours, yields are small but high in quality. The vineyards are farmed sustainably, without the use of pesticides and with as little human footprint as possible.
Chardonnay is the world’s most famous white-wine grape and also one of the most widely planted, with the most highly-regarded expressions coming from Burgundy and California. Climate plays a major role in dictating which fruit flavours a Chardonnay will have. Broadly speaking, warm regions such as California tend to give more tropical styles. While many Chardonnays have high aromatic complexity, this is usually due to winemaking techniques (particularly the use of oak) rather than the variety’s intrinsic qualities. Malolactic fermentation gives distinctive buttery aromas. Fermentation and/or maturation in oak barrels contributes notes of vanilla, smoke and hints of sweet spices such as clove and cinnamon. Extended lees contact while in barrel imparts biscuity, doughy flavours. In the Elgin Valley, Chardonnay offers typistic cool-climate notes, leaning more towards Chablis than Sonoma or Cote d’Or.
Hand-selected bunches from the oldest plantings in the vineyard. Fermented using indigenous yeasts and aged in French oak barriques, 30% of which was new. The wine rested on its lees for nine months, without the addition of sulfur, with only a portion undergoing malolactic fermentation. After tasting and blending trials to select the best barrels, the wine was bottled without fining or filtration.
Striking a fine line between elegance and opulence, this is an unbelievable example of cool-climate Chardonnay. On the nose, apple, peach, tangerine, white flowers and toast. On the palate, the apple and peach come through again, but are joined by lemon meringue, minerality, grapefruit and baking spices. A long rich finish is underlaid by fabulous acidity. Enjoy this only lightly chilled, alongside grilled sea bass or some tempered brie.