On a family trip to South Africa we stumbled upon a magical valley just off the country’s southwest coast. The valley was teeming with warmth and life: Hearty hospitality from the locals, fruit trees heavy with apples and pears, the heady scent of roses and indigenous fynbos flora… The place is called Elgin and it’s where we found our muse, Idun – the goddess of eternal life, apples and fertility.
This captivating, fertile valley’s agricultural potential was unlocked with the arrival of the first European settlers in the 1800s. One of the earliest farms, Grietjiesgat, later developed into the village of Grabouw, which today sits in the heart of Elgin. The town received its moniker from a German painter, Willem Langschmidt, who settled on Grietjiesgat in 1856 and named the surrounding area after his birthplace, Grabau. (It’s worth mentioning that the fecundity that prevails in the valley also affected the Langschmidts, who had 23 children.)
Today, beautiful cut flowers, olives, pears, apples and grapes are cultivated in Elgin. Out of all these delights, the area’s apples are perhaps the most seductive. From pretty, tart Pink Lady to crisp, crimson Top Red, over 60% of South Africa’s apples come from here and are exported worldwide.
The valley is a quick one-hour drive from South Africa’s oldest city, Cape Town, and besides its lush forests, orchards and flora, offers visitors much in the way of hiking, biking, birding, dining and exceptional wining.
Not to be outdone by the apples, the valley’s wines are truly something else. They’re made from grapes that ripen slowly because of Elgin’s fertile soil, location some 350 m above sea level and cool Mediterranean climate. The result is world-famous ‘cool climate’ wines that are delicate, elegant and age beautifully due to their higher acidity. Ah, Elgin… Did we mention the wining?