Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wine Mag Top 10 Sauv Blanc '10

When the wine industry started planting Sauvignon in earnest, (now 3rd largest planting after Chenin & Colombar) some commentators may have questioned the trend as heat and light are sworn enemies of many of the varietal’s aromatic pre-cursors.  

Another challenge – considering our soil, climate and topography diversity – is matching the right spot with the right rootstock scion and grape variety, never mind clone, which is a very slow trial-and-error process (without technology) where the Old World has a considerable head start, think Loire's Sancerre & Puilly Fume and New World's Marlborough - the exception that proves the rule.

Terroirists (see saignee, spinning cones and terroirists post link) are opposed to regional blending but surely it’s the answer until we have fully achieved the above? At first glance yesterdays top 10 are multi-regional but if there was a prize for region yesterday it would be Darling and/or Durbanville.

All of yesterday’s wines with one exception have strong maritime i.e. cold Altlantic influence including Anura (Klapmuts) who bought in fruit from Darling, the exception being Cedarburg, but they have altitude (over 1km) to protect Sauvignon's intense but flighty aromas.

Spotting Durbanville in a blind tasting used to be a no-brainer to experienced tasters and some would argue not very complex either. However – the argument for regional blends is Graham Beck’s Pheasants Run (both '09 and '10 in Top 10) for this wine is a blend of Darling and Durbanville fruit to yield a rich and complex drink. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the 09 it may well be eclipsed by the brooding 2010.

The other two exceptions to the Darling/Durbanville axis of deviously good fruit are Elim's Strandveld 2010 and First Sighting 2009, so that’s 7/10 of the wines from these regions. We did a quick wisk around of our favourite wines at our end of the table and yup, same trend and we preferred the 09’s.

 The only 5 star - Anura - displayed character and intensity I have yet to taste on a SA Sauvie while some found its acidity a little too racy. It made me consider - as a confirmed Sauvie addict which I fueled with a   vintage in Marlborough - that I no longer had to remain in the closet with my preference for its wines as the closet has gone missing in Darling/Durbanville.

Another realisation was that our Sauvigon’s have become much more complex over the last 5+ years and less dominated by the greener Sauvignon aromas, more so as they warmed-up from over chilling and I could still ‘dry’ taste them much later lying in bed unable to sleep.

Lastly – am getting tired – many of these Sauvignon’s show great aging potential – although not normally associated with the varietal (here) while 8/10 received 4.5 to 5 stars and no less than 27 received 4 stars - in more signs of coming of age?
The top 10 wines, in order of Star ratings, then price, are as follows:

5 Stars
Anura Unfiltered Reserve 2010

4 ½ Stars 2010
First Sighting 2009
Cederberg 2010
De Grendel Koetshuis 2010
Strandveld 2010
Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run 2009
Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run 2010

4 Stars
Darling Cellars Bush Vine 2010
Groote Post Reserve 2009

Jonathan Snashall

For Wine Mag's article


  1. I'm a bit confused by this. New Zealand's success with Marlborough SB shows that you do not need centuries of growing & experimenting with clones to make great wine. The first SB vines were planted there in 1975.

    I've not had any of the wines listed above, but I'd say the consistently best SA SBs are from Springfield Estate in Robertson followed by Southern Right and any from Constantia.

    Problem here is track record, many of the name above are every new, many of the regions are new to SB. In other words it is early days.

    A more serious problem is developing styles of SB. I like the grassy/gooseberry/acid styles, others prefer these to be toned down and then there are wooded styles.

    I think there should be clear labelling to decribe which style a SA SB is otherwise consumers will be as confused as they are with Chenin

  2. Hi Peter
    Only saw this today, thought I would be notified of comments! Marlborough offers near perfect conditions for SB and there are very few such places on the planet, the best possible similar spots have to be found out, Springfield also good example as most of the terroir is counter intuitive/counter exisitng science as a good spot for SB.

    As for styles - obviously you can do some manipulations in the cellar but SB flavours and aromas very much created in the vineyard so you are more bound by what your site delivers than stylistic aspirations (unless of course they correspond or for eg you do regional blends) Many of SB aromas very volatile so consistency can be trickey esp in warmer climes.

    Our SBs have some along way in the last 10 years
    but not sure how you can taste them across the range? Next WOSA London event? Next Excel (wine) event?
    Go well