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Brian Elliott: Elgin's cool adds zest to South African whites

Scotland on Sunday wine columnist Brian Elliott takes a look at some great South African white wines

Published: March 24, 2016
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With names like Lothian and Iona – in a wine region called Elgin – today’s feature ought to excite special interest among Scots. This particular Elgin, however, lies 50 or so miles southeast of Cape Town and is prime orchard country; it produces about 60 per cent of South Africa’s apple crop.

As they are also experiencing in Kent and Sussex, though, where apples grow successfully, so too can vines for less sunshine-dependent grape varieties. Certainly, the Atlantic breezes that create cool climate conditions in Elgin give its sauvignon blanc vines, in particular, significant help.

Environmental factors make grape ripening thereabouts slow, and harvest time late, but the resultant long “hang time” keeps grape acidity levels high and extends the eventual flavour range. Led by pioneers like the Paul Cluver estate, the outcome has been crisp and zingy whites with real depth.

Judge for yourself though by acquiring the fresh and complex 2015 Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc (£12.25 at It certainly has a classic grassy and lemon-based acidity but combines it brilliantly with textured apple and white peach fruit enlivened by hints of sweeter spices.

Where sauvignon prospers pinot noir often also does well, as evidenced by the smooth yet vibrant 2014 Mr P Pinot Noir (£13 at The Fine Wine Company, Portobello) from Iona Vineyards. Despite a discernible tannin base and plum influenced backdrop, the wine’s main feature is the lightness and delicacy with which it enhances the perfumed red cherry, strawberry and cranberry fruit, and gentle earthiness.

For the region’s more substantial red wines, tune in to the smoky and rounded 2014 Lothians Vineyard Horny Owl Shiraz (£9 at Oddbins). It has black cherry and bramble fruit, raspberry acidity and a finish that combines olives, black pepper and chocolate, all sitting atop a neat savoury – almost minty – depth.


2014 Axis Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River
Western Australia, 14.5 per cent
Lidl’s latest Wine Cellar promotions contain this delightful and brilliantly priced cabernet. There is a bold cassis-centred Coonawarra cabernet in the collection too but I narrowly preferred this smooth and lively version with muted bramble and blaeberry fruit, touches of vanilla and other spices and a savoury finish.
£6.49 at Lidl

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2015 Finest Tapiwey Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
Casablanca Valley, Chile, 12.5 per cent

When Tesco dropped “half price” offers, they replaced them with a series of useful savings on selected Finest wines. This is one – and represents great value at this price. Enjoy its herbal and subtle mineral background, crisp, pink grapefruit acidity and fusion of green pepper, lime and orange flavours.
£5.50 at Tesco

• For regular recommendations on good value wines go to

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