There is always something new that catches the attention of the crowd, and in the case of South African wine growers, that something new is a new ward, Elim. In the Cape Agulhas wine district of South Africa, the Elim wine ward has attracted attention due to the nature of the climate and of the soil. One would usually be enough to encourage the farmers to move in and take over a ward, but in fact Elim has so much more to offer than this, that it seems surprising that it has not been declared a ward sooner, or at least acknowledged in some way.
The climate that surrounds Elim is very chilly. Lying on the coast, it is constantly being affected by sea breezes, which create a definite chill in the air even on the hottest of days. The land area is just a small peninsula, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, but it is also jostled by the last vestiges of the Indian Ocean’s currents, which bring in an extra push to the wines, cooling down any vines which have been planted in the district. These good, cold temperatures during the ripening stages are considered to be very important to the successful ripening of some European vines. This cooling period is essential to farmers, because it allows the grapes time to absorb enough nutrients from the soil to develop a good body and taste. The extra ripening time helps to prevent the grapes from becoming dry and acidic, and it also ensures that the grapes have plenty of juice inside the flesh, essential for the wine-making process. This cold air is a distinctive feature of the Elim ward.
However, it is not the only reason that farmers choose to plant their grapes in this area. Alongside the cold winds from the coast, there are plenty of soils in the area which can add extra complexity and vigour to the finished wine. The sandstone mountains are ideal, but there are also cold Laterite stones or shale that provide a very mineral taste to the wine, which can be pleasant at the finish. The extra things absorbed into the grape also enhance the flavours that were already there, and this enhances fruits, hedgerow tastes, and some tropical notes. This means that the finished grape can be used in a single varietal wine without having to have an excessive amount added to it in the final stages. Elim is well-known for some fantastic white wines.
The area around Elim is likely to become even more farmed in the next few years, as wine growers turn to the white grape as a cheaper source of wine than red, and start planting white vines in cool locations. Planting the vines where the weather is naturally colder ensures that the farmer does not have to spend too much money on modern technology to chill down the grapes. Leaving nature to do it without any price tag, the farmers can reap all the benefits of the cold climate farm without having to lay out a penny.