One of the great things about living in the Overberg area is the abundance of small, quaint and picturesque towns that are just a short drive away from Blue Gum. My wife and I often pop the kids in the car, pray that they sleep and head out on an adventure to find good food or wine or something to entertain the kids whilst we rest our weary minds.
Elim is just such a place. It is one of the few surviving old-time mission stations and home to members of the Moravian church. The Moravian Church (in Latin – Unitas Fratrum, meaning “Unity of the Brethren”) is a Protestant denomination. This church’s nickname comes from the original exiles that came to Saxony in 1722 from Moravia to escape persecution. The Church places a high premium on Christian unity, personal piety, missions, and music.
The town was founded in 1824 and not much has changed in nearly 200 years. The white washed cottages lining the main road were home to mainly freed slaves, with the beautiful church (still a national monument) becoming the pivotal point of the community as well as a memorial to Freedom. The town was originally named Vogelfontein, meaning Bird Fountain. The church community either scared the bird away or demolished the fountain, because one year later it was renamed Elim, meaning Palm Tree. There still only appears to a few palm trees on the Church grounds. So as I said, not much has changed. The town also houses one of the last remaining water-mills in the Cape.
My wife, she is not so big into History. So, whilst this fascinates me, and may fascinate you, the reason we venture to Elim so frequently (50 km along a serious dirt road) is for a wholly different reason.
The vineyards of Elim are the most southerly in Africa as well as being the newest wine producing region in our glorious province. The unique location of the vineyards as well as the cool climate makes for extraordinary wines. The climate creates soft ripening conditions over a longer period which promotes colour and flavour in the grapes. The low soil potential promotes balanced growth, resulting in extremely small grape yields from the vines. This unique set of characteristics is referred to as the “Terroir” – these special aspects of the region interact with the vines genetics to create something distinctive – and matchless. Even if the grape variety and winemaking techniques are painstakingly duplicated in another area the wine would not be the same. The word Terroir has no real translation into English – some rather clever French person came up with it – but it essentially means “sense of place”.
All the vineyards in the area are approx. 10km away from the Atlantic Ocean. The White wines are crisp and elegant with intense fruity flavours formed by the cool coastal winds and unique Elim soil. The Sandstone Mountains of the area are ideal for planting white varietals. Unusually, there is also cold Laterite stones and shale that provide a very mineral taste to the white wines. The reds produced are always sophisticated and fruity.
Our favourite spot to wine and dine in Elim is the Black Oystercatcher – not only are the wines amazing, but the food is excellent. The produce they serve is grown in their own garden providing an organic dining experience in a relaxed country setting. The food is always prepared fresh to order and is best enjoyed with friends and family at a leisurely country pace. The menu is also seasonal, so we try and go at least 4 times a year. The cheese-platter that they serve is truly spectacular – I have never experienced anything quite like it. I always eat so much cheese so as to induce a coma – so worth it! The BOC has a choice of 5 wines – my personal favourite is the White Pearl, a classic Boudreaux style blend – delicious with seafood or curries. I have already consumed a case this month – don’t worry, it was only a 6 bottle case.
We then pop over to Strandveld Vineyards, about 5km down the road. Their wines are so highly decorated, that if I listed the awards this would go for another 20 pages. My favourite is the Strandveld Navigator – a Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre and Viognier, or Rhone-Style blend. This wine is so rare and sought after in South Africa that I have to bribe the ladies at the cellar to organise me a case (a case that they are supposed to ship overseas to some lucky Englishmen, no doubt). I truly love the spice on the nose, mixed with the aromatic and floral tones from the Viognier – delicious!
Another fantastic stop is The Berrio – they have a delicious Bordeaux style blend called the “Weathergirl” and their Cab Sauv is excellent as well. The last of the 4 vineyards in the area is Zoetendal – an appointment needs to made well in advance to sample their delicious selection of wine.
I highly recommend you include Elim as a destination on your next road trip into the Overberg. Safe travels…
ESSENTIAL CONTACT DETAILS:
+27 (0) 28 482 1618
+27 (0)28 482 1906
+27 (0)82 551-2351
+27 (0)28 482-1717
For additional reading on things to do in the area please see below: