Belgin – a very friendly welcome in Elgin.
I had barely shut the car door and took in my stunning surrounds when I noticed a lady with a huge grin approaching at a brisk pace. A bit taken aback I wondered whether we had parked on someone’s reserved space, but it seems she is there to greet and escort us to the tasting room (huh?), just the first taste of the welcoming atmosphere that is Almenkerk wine farm. She introduces herself as Natalie, and invites us to take the scenic route round to the tasting room. And what a fantastic tasting room! From designer chairs to designer softies the atmosphere is one of comfort and style. We make ourselves at home at the tasting counter with Natalie bustling around with bottles and tasting glasses (superb) on the other side and before we know it we are having the best time. Chatting about the farm, the wine, the terroir, with Natalie pointing out each block through the massive glass fronted room, this is a tasting that makes you feel you are getting a real understanding and appreciation of not only the wine in the bottle but the vision and the approach to the making of it.
This winery, an architectural gem with views that inspires an impromptu jaw-drop, lies in the heart of the Elgin valley and is a family run affair.
A real love affair it seems, as Natalie’s explains how things go down at Almenkerk. She and husband Joris (both Belgian born) run everything from the horticulture to viniculture, their passion is reflected in the stories, the process, the sparkle in her eye as she talks about the wines and the farm. We have fun! she exclaims, but of course, the wine must still taste good! If you can’t enjoy the process, it kind of defies the purpose.
Well, I certainly agree!
Their current releases include a 2009 sauvignon blanc and a 2010 chardonnay, but a syrah and cabernet franc is ageing in oak barrels as we speak.
The sauvignon is made using a traditional technique (sur lie) paired with modern technology using an inert press, which means minimum exposure to oxygen is allowed. The mouthfeel is fresh and citrusy with a crisp mineral finish, that would pair perfectly with an oyster or 12. The Chardonnay is typical cool climate , with subtle hints of clean lemon and naartjie balanced by a crisp mineral freshness, softened by 9 months on the lees in french oak barrels.
Our tasting is followed by a quick tour of the cellar and we are invited to come back in harvest time where we are more than welcome to help sort the grapes! Apparently they recruit all their friends and family for this purpose as no grape goes into the tank before being approved by human eyes and hands. Clever clever.
This certainly explains why earlier this year (during harvest time) we arrived on a Friday afternoon only to be told that the tasting room was closed for a film shoot (BMW ad). Turning to leave we stumble upon a lady, covered in grape stains with hair all over the place. After a brief and very confusing conversation about when we could possibly return we finally grasped that she was under the impression that it was Monday. A family member or friend, I now wonder? Who needs enemies with friends like these 😉
The foodie: “No bullshit, no long-winded tales or proclaimed superiority, just a refreshingly open discussion about the farm, the wine business and their own story, complete with problems and good fortunes, no glossing over. Easily my favourite new winery visit.”
Maggie Mostert: “Beautiful estate with spectacular view of the valley. Fabulous Sauvignon Blanc cannot wait for the Chardonnay. Do go a bit off the beaten path to visit this friendly gem.”
Hennie Coetzee:”Absolutely stunning place, with friendly faces greeting you as you walk in. The most amazing views of the valley from the deck, and great wines to boot! Absolutely worth a visit!”
Diana Procter: “Stunning setting, lovely people, delicious Sauv Blanc – what’s not to like? Shiraz tank sample shows wonderful promise. Looking forward to being able to taste the Chardonnay when it’s bottled. Thanks for a great experience.”