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