Freshness and elegance. These are the two words winemaker Andries Burger returns to again and again as we sit sampling the wines from Paul Cluver estate, where he has held the keys to the cellar for every one of the estate’s 20 vintages.
Yet Burger is far too humble to claim much credit for the awards racked up over the past two decades; notably the Platinum and Gold medals from the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards. Instead, he turns to Elgin’s famous cool climate terroir: the happy coincidence of altitude, a cooling south-easterly wind in the summer, and the valley’s proximity to the ocean. Little wonder wine makers from warmer Cape vineyards are seeking out parcels of Elgin grapes.
The farm has been in the Cluver family since 1896, and Paul Cluver Snr was a pioneer of wine farming in the valley in the late-1980s. Since then the farm has become particularly famous for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
“From our vineyards I can produce wines that are fresh and elegant, which are hallmarks of Elgin Chardonnay,” says Burger. “When you look at Chardonnay worldwide most winemakers have made the mistake of thinking more wood is better. In the New World we’ve moved to incorporating less wood, but the wines still have great individuality.”
The estate’s Pinot Noirs are similarly elegant, favouring complexity over boldness. Although the Village range is an entry-level offering with plenty of bright berry fruit, the Estate Pinot Noir is “about purity of fruit and acidity,” says Burger.
Burger is also devoted to the lesser-known German grapes of Weisser Riesling and Gewürztraminer, which both thrive in the cool Elgin terroir. “Our Gewürztraminer just has so much perfume,” says Burger, adding that the balance between sugar and acidity in the Paul Cluver Dry Encounter Riesling makes it an ideal food wine. “Our vines really show what Riesling is capable of.”
Keeping it green
Sustainability is also a key focus of the Cluver estate, where alien vegetation is mulched, composted and returned to feed the vineyards. Above the cellar a bank of photovoltaic panels provide most of the energy requirements, while wilderness zones through the farm provide crucial corridors for wildlife wandering off the Groenlandberg Mountain.
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Words: Richard Holmes | Images: Supplied