This woman packs conservation power

Tuesday, 11 August, 2015
Cassie du Plessis
Pat von Elgg of Hout Baai farm outside McGregor personifies passion for nature and all creatures alive and has now released her first organically produced wine – at the age of 88.

One look at the Solara Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2014 label and you will realise this is not just another wine competing for a place among the thousands of bottles on South African shop shelves. The bold “organic” word and Landmark Foundation sticker immediately denotes that there’s much more to the product.

The story behind this newcomer is one of dedication and perseverance by this grand lady whose unconditional caring for the environment is embodied in each bottle of her maiden release. This is in fact the culmination of Pat von Elgg’s unrelenting efforts since purchasing the run-down Hout Baai farm just outside McGregor 12 years ago – so named after the mountain river that runs past it.

The result is that today a myriad of live creatures and natural fynbos vegetation flourish as an interwoven whole around her 10.52 hectares of vineyards (Sauvignon Blanc, Colombar and Pinotage) – with several animal species having a stake in the wine, including the leopards represented on the bottle sticker. In fact, a R3 donation for each bottle sold, goes to the Landmark Foundation and its leopard research and rescue projects.

Yes, the woman with the formidable name of Patricia J L Werdmuller von Elgg is big in sharing her entrepreneurial success with environment and health conscious wine consumers and her farm population alike. The latter including stray and abused animals from the district, housed in kennels and paddocks which make up part of the Hout Baai complex of restored buildings and replanted vineyards.

Here no stone is left unturned in the dedication to preserving the environment and to comply with international standards of organic production of wine as audited by SGS Organic (Lacon Certificate).

Ms Von Elgg explains that, having previously lived in Prince Albert, she purchased Hout Baai farm in 2003 for the purpose of providing accommodation for needy domestic and wild animals rescued through her animal welfare efforts. She provides an animal welfare emergency service to the local community, free of charge for the disadvantaged.

On the farm she was compelled to educate herself in viticulture at an advanced age – having previous experience in mixed farming in Mooi River, KwaZulu- Natal, and in business and design internationally on three continents. This includes India where she was born.

Rooiberg Winery near Robertson started to buy her grapes for its own wine production from 2004. This led to an arrangement in 2008 whereby this winery processes Hout Baai’s grapes as organic, with full certification of the cellar, followed by Woolworths adding her bubbly to its range. Today Rooiberg produces the Solara Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2014 as a joint venture.

This farm was originally run down and riddled with disease, pests and trash; wildlife practically non-existent. Now, the natural balance is restored, by organic farming and the preservation of substantial areas of indigenous veldt, fauna including caracal, bat ear foxes, antbear, civet, mongoose, four species of buck, hare, hundreds of guinea fowl, and all the local bird species abound. These animals live and breed on the farm and are fearless in their acceptance of human presence.

The single vineyard Solara Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2014 is available in limited quantities, with the lowest possible sulphur content and an alcohol level of only 12.5%. The wine retails at R70 a bottle from selected outlets including Hout Baai Farm, McGregor.

Light straw colour; ripe fruit on nose with floral notes; fresh and friendly on taste (12.5% alcohol). Creamy mouthfeel and grassiness integrated with flavours of asparagus, gooseberry and ripe fig; mineral tones, touch of spiciness on lingering aftertaste. Ideal for sundowners. Should mature well for some three years.

Tel 023 625 1867