His­tory en­hances trio

Few ranges em­brace a story as long and as fas­ci­nat­ing as the 2010 Win­ters Drift wines table­top

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODFARE - MYRNA ROBINS

THE AN­TIQUE clock on the la­bels of Win­ters Drift wines is more than a sym­bol of the pas­sage of time. This el­e­gant time­piece, which ticked away the hours for more than 80 years in the Molteno broth­ers’ farm­stead on Glen El­gin, will soon find a new home in the Win­ters Drift tast­ing cen­tre on El­gin sta­tion.

There it will link past to present in a stylish re­minder of agri­cul­tural suc­cess and on­go­ing phi­lan­thropy.

Some wine lovers have al­ready dis­cov­ered the 2010 Win­ters Drift trio at their favourite out­let. Few ranges em­brace a story as long and fas­ci­nat­ing as these do, named af­ter the cross­ing through the Palmiet river on Glen El­gin farm which was the “win­ter ford” on the orig­i­nal route through the Over­berg. The sauvi­gnon blanc (R57 ex-farm) is medium- bod­ied, el­e­gant but not aus­tere, fresh grassy flavours com­ple­ment­ing flint. The chardon­nay (R69) is equally ap­peal­ing, medium bod­ied, lightly wooded, its del­i­cate pear and lime en­hanc­ing sim­ply pre­pared seafood. The rosé, (R46) made from mer­lot, is a class act wait­ing for a pic­nic with panache.

This El­gin story starts in 1903 when broth­ers Ed­ward (Ted) and Henry ( Harry) Molteno started farm­ing, first with veg­eta­bles, then with ap­ples and pears. Sons of John Molteno, first premier of the Cape Colony, the sib­lings de­vel­oped Glen El­gin into a ma­jor ex­porter of de­cid­u­ous fruit to the UK by the mid1920s, helped by build­ing the first pri­vately owned cold store on the farm. Hav­ing weath­ered the Great De­pres­sion and World War II, Ted Molteno died in 1950, mark­ing the end of a re­mark­able re­la­tion­ship be­tween two bach­e­lor broth­ers whose in­ter­ests had ex­tended to the arts: they in­sti­gated the es­tab­lish­ment of the Cape Ter­cente­nary Foun­da­tion and, with the help of oth­ers, es­tab­lished the Ko­gel­berg re­serve to pro­tect the wilder­ness around their farm.

By 1969, when Harry Molteno fol­lowed his brother to the grave, Glen El­gin had been up­graded with a new dam, staff ac­com­mo­da­tion, a plant to dry ap­ples and an­other to juice the fruit. His will con­firmed the ear­lier de­ci­sion of the broth­ers that prof­its of the farms, col­lec­tively known as Glen El­gin, be di­rected to ed­u­ca­tional, cul­tural and char­i­ta­ble in­ter­ests as al­lo­cated by the Molteno Broth­ers Trust.

Among these were en­dow­ments at Cape uni­ver­si­ties, and the Molteno Project for the ad­vance­ment of the English lan­guage among schol­ars with a dif­fer­ent home lan­guage, and school bursary schemes.

These phil­an­thropic ac­tiv­i­ties con­tinue to­day, as summed up by author Phill­ida Brooke Simons in her de­light­ful chron­i­cle Ap­ples of the Sun (Fern­wood Press): “It is a very rare thing to find a busi­ness cor­po­ra­tion of any kind – let alone a farm­ing en­ter­prise – that ex­ists en­tirely for the ben­e­fit of needy in­sti­tu­tions.”

To­day, Glen El­gin grows and dries ap­ple va­ri­eties for the con­tem­po­rary palate, cul­ti­vates fyn­bos for ex­port and pro­duces honey from hives kept for pol­li­na­tion. All these will soon be avail­able to vis­i­tors, along with its de­light­ful wines.

A va­ri­ety of cul­ti­vars are thriv­ing on 54ha, and the new year will see shi­raz and pinot noir be­ing re­leased along with the 2011 vin­tages of sauvi­gnon blanc, chardon­nay and a rosé. I sam­pled the 2011 whites soon af­ter bot­tling and found them su­pe­rior to the maiden vin­tages, which makes them good in­deed. They are pro­duced in the Gabriël­skloof cel­lar at Botriv­ier.

Their launch will co­in­cide with the open­ing of a wine tast­ing cen­tre and deli in the orig­i­nal build­ings on El­gin sta­tion, where goods trains still trun­dle past twice a day.

Other vis­i­tor at­trac­tions are in the pipe­line as the farm team gears up for this new phase.

It’s in­trigu­ing to spec­u­late on how the Molteno broth­ers would have re­acted to viti­cul­ture, for, while not ac­tu­ally tee­to­talers, they ap­par­ently lim­ited their al­co­hol con­sump­tion to a ta­ble­spoon­ful of ex­cel­lent bur­gundy af­ter din­ner ev­ery night – to re­lieve flat­u­lence!

FARM WITH A MIS­SION: Glen El­gin’s prof­its are chan­nelled to South African ed­u­ca­tional and char­i­ta­ble projects.

SPLEN­DID MAIDEN VIN­TAGE: Win­ters Drift sauvi­gnon blanc 2010

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