Shannon Vineyards are situated in the Elgin Valley within the Kogelberg Biosphere with mountains on their western boundary and the Peninsula Dam forming the eastern boundary. The Elgin Valley that has long been regarded as the apple and pear centre of South Africa, now has some of the country’s most highly regarded winemakers establishing vineyards in the area, testament to its obvious winemaking potential.
At Shannon they focus on viticulture principles in order to reflect their commitment to winemaking as an expression of terroir. Technological surveys ensure that the correct grape variety, clone and rootstock combination was planted in the diverse ancient soil types. The vineyards benefit from the high altitude cool temperatures, as well as an abundant rainfall throughout the year and the prevailing cold summer wind, known as the “Black South-Easter” blowing in from the ocean 12 kilometres away. Viticulture practices and canopy management that enhance longer ripening periods capture in the wines, the broad spectrum of flavours created in the cool climate of their unique terroir!
Shannon Vineyards is a member of the Biodiversity Wine Initiative and they have maintained the undisturbed virgin soil in 8-meter wide corridors of natural fynbos (native Cape flora) between the vineyards, providing the indigenous animals with territorial access from the riverbanks to the mountainside.
Shannon Wines are produced from 12 different site specific vineyard blocks of Pinot Noir, 7 blocks of Sauvignon Blanc and a half hectare of Semillon as well as the now “work in progress” Viognier. The exciting Mount Bullet comes from the Merlot vineyard consisting of 5 clones. They strive to produce Wines of complexity and elegance.
The name Shannon pays homage to their Irish ancestry. Their forefathers, the Shannon and Downes families were from County Cork, Ireland. On the other side, the James family were wine merchants and former owners of the White Horse Pub (1882) in Parsons Green, the City Arms (in the City of London), the Rising Sun (Battersea) and the Marlborough (Chelsea).
Shannon Vineyards used Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and two separate independent planting surveys to ensure that the correct grape variety and rootstock combination was planted in the soil types of the identified sites. There are 17 different variations of ancient soil types to choose from and slopes varying from cool South, South East, East and North East facing aspects. Our soils range from very heavy blue/red clays, iron enriched gravel known as Bokkeveld Shales, through to white silicate quartz encrusted sandstone known as Table Mountain Sandstone.
Shannon Vineyard’s cool climate can be attributed to:
- Its altitude within the Elgin Valley (260 to 800m),
- Being geographically cocooned in the Elgin Valley by mountain ranges,
- Its extreme minimum and maximum temperatures,
- An emphasis on cold night-time temperatures,
- Resulting in an average mean temperature of 19.5ºC during the ripening period,
- An abundant rainfall of about 1000mm per year,
- The vineyards benefiting from the prevailing cold summer South Easter wind, known as the “Black South-Easter”, blowing in from the ocean 12 kilometres away.
Viticulture practices to enhance longer ripening periods, together with the various soils, vine clonal selections and canopy management aim to capture the broad spectrum of flavours created from the cool climate, our unique terroir!
The team at Shannon Vineyards strives to produce wines of elegance and finesse, wines that achieve power, not through higher alcohol but through core quality and complexity. Everything in the vineyard is done for a reason, to give the grapes every opportunity to reflect the harmony, balance, equilibrium and the expression of purity of the fruit. The winemaking approach of minimal intervention highlights the difference in terroir and emphasizes minerality and individuality.
The Elgin Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc has already achieved national and international acclaim. Shannon Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc expresses all the typical Elgin Sauvignon Blanc nuances. A dash of Semillon is added to round off the edges of the Sauvignon Blanc acidity and also provides a fuller mouth feel to the mid palette.
In their quest to achieve a truly great Elgin Valley Pinot Noir they are not influenced or side tracked by other international Pinot Noir producing areas. It is to be true to their own parcel of land with its ancient soils and cool climate; to be proud to create an Elgin Valley Pinot Noir, as they believe that the Elgin Valley and the Palmiet River represents the best growing conditions for Pinot Noir in South Africa. “Ripe berry/cherry juiciness with grippy smoky oak breadth and spices. Firm, tight texture.
Their label depicts the rugged, weathered Mount Bullet which stands proud at 1289m above sea level and guards the vineyards from the South Westerly storms coming all the way up from Antarctic during the autumn and winter months.
The name Mount Bullet originates from Bullet Bay on the ocean side of the mountain range. It is here that the round granite rocks when rolling back and forth in the surf zone bangs against each other creating the effect of bullets being fired
The vineyard has unique low vigour soils for a cool climate. Incorporating monthly leaf plucking, strict low yield policies and yes, a little more effort in the vineyard, a distinctive wine is produced that speaks for itself. When tasting this wine for the first time most people are amazed to find that it is 100 percent Merlot.
“MACUSHLA“ – a Pinot Noir Noble Late Harvest.
Having researched the potential of producing this style wine for the last few years, James and Stuart Downes along with the rest of the team at Shannon Vineyards realised that the Elgin Valley has some of the best growing conditions for Pinot Noir Noble Late Harvest wines.
This wine was launched St Patrick’s Day 2010, at the “Elgin Valley Wine Tasting” at the Sun Square Monte casino Johannesburg. On the same day It was also being enjoyed alongside the rest of the wines from Shannon Vineyards by the SA Irish Embassy with 120 of their guests at their annual St Patrick’s Day celebration at the Irish Embassy residence in Cape Town.
Pronounced: Ma cu shla. An Anglo-Irish term of address expressing affection i.e. darling or sweetheart (a special loved one) as in “my darling” or “my dear”. In Gaelic it’s written as “mo chuisle” and means “my pulse” It’s from a longer phrase: A chuisle mo chroí,” which means “pulse of my heart.” Also nicknamed the “Pink Sticky” in the cellar.
On arrival at the farm we were met by the owner, James Downes. We had just driven down the red autumn leaved avenue. There cant be many more stunning views than the ones looking down over the Shannon Vineyards. It is so peaceful and serene, especially this time of year. James took us on the guided tour of the farm. He showed us their tasting room. I can imagine that over a busy weekend this must host quite a vibe.
Just before we left, James took us into his library. He seemed to think that it wasn’t much but to me it looked wow. There are quite a few treasures hidden in this library.
We had the pleasure of buying a case of the wine that had attracted us to the farm. We had been at a tasting earlier in the week with KGB Wines and we had tasted the Mount Bullet Merlot. What a stunning wine. A case of this stunning wine now has a special place in my cellar.