South Hill Vineyards was recently purchased by Africa Capital Group (Pty) Ltd who produces water from the air for their brand Aquasky. What’s interesting to know is that this wineries vineyards are approaching the 20-years old mark. This brings about many interesting conversations regarding the potential to replant, the potential to consider a new range, build the export market, and push the premium nature of the wine. How exciting!
South Hill Vineyards Cool Climate Wines
Those in the know, will realise that South Hill is located in a prime spot for cool-climate wines – The Elgin Valley. This region is known to produce some exceptional produce due to the slow ripening of fruit and cool ocean breezes.
There’s an international swing to cool-climate wines and South Hill Vineyards winemaker Sean Skibbe explains that Elgin is one of the coolest, if not the coolest, wine-growing region in South Africa. This is why it produces such exceptional wines, and why wine-makers from warmer areas clamour for South Hill’s grapes.
“Take Sauvignon Blanc,” Skibbe says. “When grown in warmer regions, the grapes peak early and have to be harvested under-ripe and still green to preserve their volatile freshness. There are tricks that can be used in the cellar to compensate, and these wines may have a good, aromatic bouquet when young, but they are often a little thin on the palate and tend to have a greener, more acidic profile with a limited potential to age.”
“Sauvignon from Elgin is completely different – it’s fruity, softer, still crisp and fresh, but not acidic. And it has longevity. Our 2021 SB is drinking beautifully now, and even better than it was 12 months ago – and it was great then.
“There is no substitute for a cool climate,” he continues. It slows down the ripening so we harvest later, which allows the grapes to develop more flavours, which leads to better-bodied, fruity wines…
“Elgin is a tiny region – less than 1% of SA’s wine-growing area. It has been South Africa’s best-kept wine secret for too long,” he says. “It’s a beautiful area, offering an authentic experience where hospitable people craft exceptional wines. At many tastings in the valley, you’re likely to be hosted by an owner or the winemaker – someone with a real investment in that farm and that wine.”
Skibbe has been with South Hill since its maiden vintage. He notes that the previous owners have left South Hill with a great legacy, many loyal customers and a huge opportunity to build and grow the wine business. “The wine has always been in the background. That changes now.”
To those who know, those who buy South Hill wines whenever they see them, these are excellent reds and whites that are still pretty good value. The highly rated South Hill range includes a Sauvignon Blanc, dry Rose, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The holy grail for Skibbe is to craft “an incredible, exceptional wine – the best this region can produce”.
Visit South Hill Vineyards
South Hill offers tastings from Wednesday to Sunday (as well as a variety of exceptional accommodation options – including a houseboat on one of the natural, perennial dams on the farm). For now, tastings can be enjoyed at a table in the restaurant, outside in the garden and even within the wine maze, which is studded with fascinating nuggets of wine info.
There’s a relaxed atmosphere here. There is plenty of styles, and beauty in abundance, but zero pomp and the only ceremony is observed at the many weddings that take place in this spectacular setting.
“From the beginning, I’ve always wanted to make wines that are accessible but complex enough for someone who wants a little bit more. That’s this whole farm: it’s accessible but interesting enough to satisfy even the most discerning of customers,” says Skibbe.
There are plans to build a new tasting room on the edge of the top dam, looking down the length of the incredibly beautiful Elgin Valley. For the cult followers of South Hill wines, it’s a little poignant to know that more people will soon learn the secrets held here. But it is time.
For more information on South Hill Vineyards, please visit https://southhill.co.za/ or call (+27) 21 844 0888.