22 April 2011 by Chris Marais

Elgin Valley People

The busy N2 from Cape Town to the east is a bit like a Xmas tree, with the little villages hanging from it like baubles. Elgin and Grabouw are two such little baubles.

Waking up deep in apple country, visiting Friday Night Blues markets, traipsing the vineyards with the wine folk, sitting down to long lunches where the table groans with products from the district, chatting the afternoon away.

Many of the estates go back hundreds of years, so you’re buying a bit of colonial history when you buy a bottle of wine. The whites are favoured, the red blends do well, and many of the estates have become so market savvy that their wines go straight to faithful niche markets overseas.

It’s the end of summer now, and the beginning of the picking season, by all accounts. The estates like Cluver carry their own restaurants, which in turn carry their own vegetable gardens and orchards. You sit down and are guaranteed that everything you are eating - bar the meat, perhaps - comes straight from the field nearby.

I met Gaspard the Belgian chocolateer at the blues market, and he held us enthralled with deep background on the sweet stuff, right down to the fact that he keeps close tabs of the coco bean futures which are broadcast from London.

The beer maker from Napier tried to interest me in a very tall and delicious looking ale, but I went straight to the Mofam table, where some new wines were being launched.

Roadside shops, which abound along the N2, have become very sophisticated in the Western Cape - indeed, through much of SA. It is here you can find the best coffee blends, the finest cuts of meat, fresh produce, quiches, pies and marinated olives. Prepare to stagger out. Elgin is a place of apples, wine and food - and blues music.

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