The Agulhas Wine Triangle was established in 2019 by a group of pioneering winemakers so that they can showcase the wines of this wild and rugged region to the world.
To travel to the region is to explore an ancient landscape exposed to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans with a flourishing fauna, protected wetlands, and majestic whales that come from deep in the Southern Ocean to feed off the rich marine life. The Agulhas Plain is raw, windswept and it takes resilience to farm here.
The southernmost vineyards on the African continent, the ancient soils of the region, extreme winds, and the raw landscape have helped forge wines of outstanding character, deeply reflective of their terroir. The maritime climate and cool ripening conditions result in low yields and slow ripening of the grapes in the vineyards. This helps to create wines with a common theme of elegance, concentrated flavours, and rich and deep fruit expression.
Wine was first created in the region by Moravian missionaries in the town of Elim as they needed wine for their religious services. Known as “naagmal wyn”, or wine for holy communion, the missionaries planted their vineyards around 150 years ago. Commercial wine making commenced in the late 1990’s in the region, and wine producers have expanded their operations and now export their wine all around the globe.
However, this recent wine related history belies the rich archeological history that this region has enjoyed. The first recorded instance of Homo Sapiens expressing cognitive thought was found in Blombos Cave near Still Bay (and close to Sijnn Wines) – cross-hatching done in ochre was found on a number of stones in the cave. This extraordinary find was dated back to 80 000 years before the common human era. Excavations done in Klipgat Cave near Gansbaai, a short distance from Lomond Wines, shows a rich and diverse use of the location including up until around 2000 years ago when the Khoisan people moved onto the Agulhas Plain as the rich fauna of the region was ideal for their pastoral life.
More recently, European explorers who rounded the tip of Africa in search of India encountered this wild land and seascape. The litany of shipwrecks, some 150 or so that have been formally recorded in the modern era, bear witness to the rigours of traversing the Agulhas Bank, home to some of the most treacherous waters on the planet.
The Agulhas Wine Triangle slogan of Wine for Explorers pays homage to all the people who have inhabited this landscape and contributed to its unique location at the foot of Africa.
If ever the wines of a region reflected their terroir, it is the wines of the Agulhas Wine Triangle. From the western edge of the Agulhas Plain where Lomond Wines are found, across the wind swept plain to Strandveld Winery and The Black Oystercatcher Wines, to the far eastern edge of this southern-most point of Africa at Malgas, home to Sijnn Wines, the landscape and climate play their role to shape the expressive wines from the region. The interior vineyards found in the historic towns of Napier and Elim add their complexity to The Drift’s Estate, as well as providing fruit for Trizanne Signature Wines, Land’s End, and Ghost Corner wines.
The soils found here are a combination of cool laterite, sandstone and broken shale with pockets of quartz and limestone found as well. The ancient ebb and flow of erosion with the soils here being at least 300 million years old, the prevailing winds that constantly sweep the region cooling it in Summer and keeping it disease free in Winter, and the close proximity of the cooling Indian and Atlantic Oceans that meet at the apex of the triangle that makes up this regionchanging climatic conditions, create ideal conditions to creating distinctive and elegant wines.
Minerality and defined fruit expression are key characteristics that typify wines from the region. The wines from the Agulhas Wine Triangle are elegant, clean, layered, with restrained power and defined floral notes. Fruit expression tends to be held back and the varietals that thrive here are some of the most engaging, fresh wine styles seen from South Africa in recent years.
The impact of climate change on vineyards around the world is not underestimated here either. However, for the members of the Agulhas Wine Triangle, the cooler climate of the region means that they are well placed to continue to craft their wines of elegance and experimentation with hardy, drought resistant varietals is ongoing as the members seek to secure their future.
The landscape that is found within the Agulhas Wine Triangle is exceptionally rich in biodiversity and members actively contribute to its preservation. Growers in Elim for example along with neighbouring farms, created the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area, successfully re-introducing hippos and buffalo to the region.
Trizanne Barnard owner of Trizanne Signature Wines, is an active supporter and fund raiser for Waves for Change which helps to introduce the oceans to previously disadvantaged boys and girls.
Bruce Jack, owner of The Drift Estate, started the Headstart Trust in 2010 to assist the marginalised communities in the Napier region where they farm, as well as the Elspeth Music Trust in memory of his late Mother which looks to use music as an outlet for growth amongst the poorer communities in the region.
Lomond Wines was the first wine farm in South Africa to formally enter into Conservation Servitude with Fauna and Flora International to ensure the long-term preservation of the critically endangered Elim Ferricrete Fynbos and Overberg Sandstone Fynbos which occurs on the slopes of Ben Lomond. The farm itself lies in the heart of the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy and is home to a wide diversity of endangered flora including Mountain and Elim Fynbos, Milkwood Forests and Wetlands.
The Agulhas region is home to the world famous De Hoop Nature Reserve with its majestic Whale Trial, the De Mond Nature Reserve, Bontebok National Park, and the sweeping seascape of the Agulhas National Park. All are astoundingly beautiful natural wonders that fall within the Agulhas Wine Triangle region.