Havana Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Mike Dobrovic and Shadow a.ka. The Turdinator

Mike Dobrovic and Shadow a.ka. The Turdinator

The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from Philadelphia winery rated 5 Stars in last year’s Top 10 competition run by WINE magazine, but when it emerged that the wine exceeded the maximum residual sugar of 5g/l specified as a condition of entry, the decision was taken to strip it of its rating.

Why the fuss about RS? According to official regulatory body the Wine and Spirit Board, the residual sugar of a wine should not exceed 5g/l in order for it to be classified as “dry”. However, the stipulation was implemented more for the pragmatic reason of keeping a cap on entries, which amounted to 226 in any event.

During the course of last year, maverick winemaker Mike Drobovic left Stellenbosch farm Mulderbosch after a 19-year stretch for Havana Hills. While he consulted on the making of the 2009 Havana Hills, he was fully responsible for the 2010, an invitation was sent for me to taste “the next vintage of the cheater’s Sauvignon Blanc”, which suggested he might not be totally repentant.

Though very early on in its life, the 2010 is a stonker. According to Dobrovic, it includes 12% Semillon (whereas the 2009 was 100% Sauvignon Blanc) and while equally pure appears more complex, aromas and flavours stretching across a broader spectrum.

In terms of analysis, it has an alcohol by volume of 12.5% and an even higher RS than the 2009 of 6.5g/l. The high RS is due to the addition of grape juice concentrate – Philadelphia is off the N7 between Cape Town and Malmesbury and close to the Atlantic Ocean, making it a particularly cool area. As such, it produces grapes with very high natural acidity hence making it a necessity to add concentrate to achieve balance.

“We could de-acidify but I’d rather add to a wine than take away from it,” says Dobrovic. “Insisting on a residual sugar of 5g/l or less for dry wine is contrived. It was drawn up in an effort to ensure South Africa had stricter rules than any other wine producing region in the world but actually puts us at a disadvantage”. Tasting the 2010, it does seem overly bureaucratic to enforce a residual sugar ceiling, and all the other producers using concentrate, will be glad to learn that the stipulation regarding RS has been waived for the 2010 Top 10 competition.

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3 Comments

  1. Gary JordanJune 1, 2010 at 1:32 pmReply

    Jane, as current Wine and Spirit law stands one doesn’t have to label this wine with a sugar indication at all. If, however, it was labelled as ‘dry’ then it would have to be <5g/l residual sugar (RS). Most South African competitions indicate the RS parameters within which one enters the various categories, so that is quite clear.

  2. JaneMay 28, 2010 at 12:39 pmReply

    At what point do you have to actually lable the wine semi-sweet?

    • ChristianMay 28, 2010 at 12:58 pmReplyAuthor

      Good question. Is anyone from the Wine & Spirit Board reading this?

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