Oak Valley Estate was founded in 1898 by Sir Antonie Viljoen, a medical doctor who graduated from Edinburgh University in Scotland. Sir Antonie became a Senator in the Cape Parliament and was knighted by King George in 1916 for his efforts to reconcile the Boers and Brits in the bitter aftermath of the Boer War.
Sir Antonie was a farmer extraordinaire and amongst his many farming achievements was the establishment of the first commercial apple orchards in the Elgin Valley. The apple industry remains the economic backbone of the region today.
Well over a century has passed since the pioneering accomplishments of Sir Antonie and today Oak Valley lies in the heart of the Elgin Valley, renowned for its apples and pears, its greenhouse cut-flowers, and, for the production of its outstanding cool climate wines.Download the Oak Valley Story
Our land falls within the Elgin district, a clearly defined area from a geographical perspective. It consists of an elevated plateau ringed by mountains and only accessible by four mountain passes, each at roughly the cardinal points of the compass. There is a rainfall gradient from east to west with decreasing rainfall towards the west of the valley. Our vineyards receive close to 1,000mm of rain per annum, in part due to their close proximity to the Groenlandberg mountain.
The elevation of our vineyards varies between 300m and 500m above sea level. The majority of vineyards face south to south-east on cooler sites. The elevation of the blocks also exposes them to prevailing breezes during the summer months which moderates daytime temperatures. This helps produce grapes with the bright forward fruit aromas.
The distance to the Atlantic ocean is ±21km, however the height and the intervening ring of mountains around the valley result in very little maritime influence. Thus, the climate, is to some extent continental with cold winters and mild summers.
The Groenlandberg mountain lies to the north of our vineyards and has a significant influence, with the highest peak of 1,181m, reaching the height of Table Mountain. These peaks are periodically covered with snow in winter. During the winter months when the sun remains low, our mountain vineyards spend a large part of the day in its shadow. This increases the chilling units and results in very uniform bud break in spring as daytime temperatures increase.
In the summer evenings, the steep valleys on the southern side of the mountain cause cool air to drain like a river over the vineyards resulting in high natural acid retention in the grapes. The marked drop in evening temperatures leads to excellent colour development during the ripening period.
Our soils are derived from ancient shales formed 500 million years ago that have undergone intensive weathering and are therefore slightly acidic. These are some of the most ancient soils on earth.
The topsoil formation predominantly comprises a reddish-brown, iron-rich gravelly material, underlain by structured clay with soft, weathered porous shale deeper down. As a result, the physical properties contain growth-limiting gravelly upper soil layers over a water-storing and regulating subsoil that marries perfectly with the climate and the high rainfall.
This gives moderate growth in the early season combined with some protection against climatic heat or drought shocks during the ripening phase. The effect on the vine is to produce grapes with finely textured tannins creating wines with structure and balance.
Our wines are defined by the impact of the Groenlandberg on our vineyard sites. Stylistically, the wines reflect our cool climate, defined by freshness, persistence and purity of fruit, elegance and delicacy in structure. They will last and gain complexity with age. We focus almost exclusively on Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.