The winning wines in this year’s FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 Competition are as follows:
Bergsig Woolworths [WHAT]? 2011
Woolworths price: R39.95
100% Breedekloof. Somewhat shy on the nose but the palate shows intense lime flavour and bright acidity while the palate is long and very dry. Made in a lean, racy style. Drink now – 2012.
Boschendal Reserve Collection 2011
Not yet released. Cellar price for 2010: R90
40% Durbanville, 30% Helshoogte, Stellenbosch, 30% Firgrove, Somerset West. Blossom on the nose before a complex palate showing a range of flavours from citrus through yellow apple to green melon. Rich and full with tangy acidity. Drink now – 2014.
Clos Malverne 2011
Cellar price: R76
100% Devon Valley, Stellenbosch. Flavours of apple, spice and honey. A rich and round mouth-feel counterbalanced by zesty acidity. Very good fruit concentration before a saline finish. Drink now – 2013.
David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner 2011
Cellar price: R165
100% Elim. Lime as well as herbaceous notes on both the nose and palate. Pure fruit, good line of acidity, saline finish. Towards the greener end of the flavour spectrum but focused and balanced. Drink now – 2014.
Delaire Coastal Cuvée 2011
Cellar price: R95
50% Stellenbosch, 32% Durbanville, 14% Darling, 4% Franschhoek Semillon. A complete wine with a range of flavour from paprika through lime to granadilla. Rich but balanced. Great fruit purity matched by bright acidity. Long, dry finish. Drink now – 2016.
Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Limited Release 2011
Cellar price: R95
66.6% Darling, 33.3% Cape Agulhas. Classic South African Sauvignon Blanc. Complex nose displays lime, an attractive herbal note, granadilla and gunpowder. Great fruit definition and fresh acidity on the palate. Very persistent on finish. Drink now – 2016.
Franschoek Cellar Statue de Femme 2011
Cellar price: R40
80% Franschhoek, 14% Stellenbosch, 6% Franschhoek Semillon. Quiet nose but the palate shows good fruit weight and soft but sufficient acidity. Range of flavour including green and yellow apple as well as granadilla. Drink now – 2012.
Lutzville Cool Climate 2010
Cellar price: R26.99
100% Lutville. Some pleasing development on the nose. The palate is rich and full balanced by tangy acidity. Great flavour intensity: green bean, lime, paprika. Drink now.
Overhex Soulo 2011
Cellar price: R45
66.6% Darling/Swartland, 33.3% Elgin. This elegant wine is generally green tinged – lime and some herbaceous aromas and flavours. Juicy and fresh before a long, dry finish. Drink now – 2012.
Wade Bales Winemaker Selection Thys Louw 2011
Wade Bales Wine Society price: R49
100% Durbanville. Rich and full, this wine shows citrus, yellow apple and spice on the nose and palate. Good fruit concentration, tangy acidity. Has an appealing sweet ‘n sour character. Drink now – 2013.
Was 2011 the right vintage at the right time for local Sauvignon Blanc? Hot and dry almost everywhere, the resulting wines tend to be richer and riper than usual and therefore set to appeal to a consumer base that shows the first signs of tiring of wines made to be ultra-green and ultra-acidic.
Past a point, however, the debate that has raged recently between proponents of “grassy” Sauvignon Blanc and those of a more “fruity” style is not that helpful. What ultimately matters are the issues fundamental to all wine assessment: flavour intensity, balance, length but also the relative success of the winemaker to elevate a mere agricultural product to something worthy of contemplation.
The results of the fifth annual Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 held under the auspices of the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group and sponsored by FNB reveal some interesting trends. Despite numerous older vintage entries, nine of the winning wines were from generally under-rated 2011 and only one from 2010, which does seem to play into the hands of those that insist Sauvignon drinks best when young. Even those of us who are fond of Sauvignon when a little older have to admit that most simply take on a little more richness rather than gaining huge complexity…
Of the 10, five wines five were area-specific and five were multi-regional blends. Sauvignon is arguably one of the ultimate terroir wines in the sense that there is theoretically little in the winemaking process which might obscure the impact of site. Any consideration of terroir becomes difficult, if not meaningless, as soon as fruit from more than one place of origin is involved but on the other hand, blending undoubtedly facilitates greater complexity, and in a vintage like 2011, having access to vineyards across multiple regions acts as a buffer against difficult weather conditions.
In the four previous years of the Top 10, Darling, Durbanville and Elim have always featured prominently and while a lot of the wines that performed well in this year’s competition are again made from grapes sourced from these three maritime areas, it is interesting to note how fruit from Stellenbosch plays a role in many of the wines. When very “green” Sauvignon was at the height of fashion, this relatively warmer district was unlikely to be associated with the leading wines but now that there is demand for greater ripeness, it pops up again.
Finally, consumers should be delighted (and producers frustrated) that despite the ever growing reputation of local Sauvignon, the category seems unable to ratchet up its premium in any meaningful way. The average price per bottle of the Top 10 in 2007 was R70 and in 2011, it’s R77.