In the November 2009 issue of Wine magazine, I wrote: “One issue to ponder, as wine lovers consider the future of Sauvignon Blanc in the South African context, is the role of multi-regional blends. Sauvignon is arguably one the ultimate terroir wines in the sense that there is theoretically little to obscure the impact of site when it comes to wine assessment. However a number of South Africa’s top examples… are undoubtedly excellent yet rely on fruit from a number of sources. The question is: are these technically almost perfect examples any less legitimate than sometimes idiosyncratic single-vineyard wines?”
The question stands. Pictured alongside is Groote Post’s Lukas Wentzel and De Grendel’s Charles Hopkins, both of whom had wines in Wine magazine’s Top 10 announced yesterday. The Groote Post Reserve 2009 was made from own fruit, but two separate blocks to ensure the widest possible flavour spectrum. The De Grendel Koetshuis 2010 saw own Durbanville and Darling fruit combined.
“You can either make sit-specific wine or multi-regional. Which approach am I going to choose? Looks at the scoreboard,” says Hopkins, adopting the famous quotation of Springbok rugby player Boy Louw, and eluding to the fact that there’s no denying that multi-regional or at least multi-vineyard wines are what typically win at competitions and go on to be commercially successful. A location that is maritime (Cape Point, Darling, Durbanville, Elim) or at altitude (Cederberg) is a basic requirement in order to make top quality Sauvignon Blanc but a great deal depends on what happens in the cellar, and I’m increasingly inclined to think that bar a few exceptions, Sauvignon Blanc is all about technique.