Up, up and away – the premiumisation of Sauvignon Blanc

By , 8 December 2013



Out in front.

Out in front.

From the December issue of Business Day WANTED: No wonder Sauvignon Blanc is so many people’s favourite summertime wine – consumption-ready on purchase (no need to age it before drinking) and offering great quality relative to price – lots of primary fruit and crisp acidity often for under R40 a bottle.

Suddenly, however, there are quite a few examples of Sauvignon Blanc selling for over R100 a bottle and some approaching R200 a bottle and the question is: Does the variety inherently have what it takes to justify these prices?

In order to explore this, WANTED put 20 examples of current-release Sauvignon together all selling for R100 a bottle or over from the cellar door and these were tasted blind by a panel of three experts.

The bottom line? The entire line-up rated 4 Stars or better so basic quality levels are not an issue.

“The best are up there with the best Chardonnays and white blends in the country,” said panellist and restaurateur James Pietersen. “Producers are clearly trying to do something exceptional – whether it be grapes from a single site, natural fermentation or the use of some oak – and consequently I’m happy with the prices being charged.”

“Consumers are buying more than just a bottle of wine. These top-end Sauvignons typically have a great story behind them and many have a proven track record,” said fellow panellist and retailer Wade Bales. “Scarcity also comes into it – quantities are often limited and supply and demand does the rest.”

It has to be said however that these wines might prove quite hard work for the uninitiated. “Fresh and lightly fruity” they are not and typically feature massive flavour concentration (most producers evidently chasing full ripeness) plus more savoury secondary flavours from extended time on the lees or barrel maturation or both.

No doubt this is as it should be – these are wines for the connoisseur, which is to say those who are interested in the aesthetic value of wine. The prices being asked seem to be justified if ratings are anything to go by but as with any service or product, the market will decide in the long-term.


1. Klein Constantia Perdeblokke 2012 – Five Stars in Platter’s
Green apple through granadilla flavours. Concentrated and powerful but balanced – wonderfully coated acidity.

2. David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner Wild Ferment 2012 – Five Stars in Platter’s
Barrel-fermented but oak hardly shows. Subtle and compelling with notes of white peach and spice. Overall impression is savoury rather than sweet.

3. Vergelegen Reserve Schaapenberg 2012
Cellar price: R170
Lime and attractive herbal notes on the nose and palate. A leaner style with wonderfully fresh acidity – very elegant.

4.= Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run 2013
Cellar price: R170
An arresting wine showing cut-grass and fresh herbs. Lean with ultra-fresh acidity and a saline finish.

4.= Mulderbosch 1000 Miles 2012 – Five Stars in Platter’s
Cellar price: R200
Blackcurrant, vanilla and other more exotic flavours like ginger on the nose and palate. Rich, full and thick textured.

6.= Boschendal Elgin 2012
Cellar price: R195
White peach, a hint of black currant and some honey. A forceful wine with lots of fruit concentration and tangy acidity.

6.= Diemersdal 8 Rows 2013
Cellar price: R120
Citrus through green melon to granadilla plus some leesy complexity. Big and rich balanced by tangy acidity.

6.= Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2012
Cellar price: R130
Ultra-ripe with notes of white flower, peach and honey. An extravagant wine – sweet fruited with moderate acidity.

6.= Shannon Sanctuary Peak 2013
Cellar price: R100
Some attractive herbal character, lime and peach. Good concentration, fresh acidity and long, dry, finish. Understated, pure and focused.

10. Steenberg Black Swan 2012
Cellar price: R160
Rather old school with notes of cut grass, thatch and hay. Super-concentrated with really zippy acidity.

11. Waterkloof 2012
Cellar price: R155
Lime, green melon, a touch of granadilla but also vague yeasty and bruised apple notes. Not too rich and nicely balanced.

12.= Cape Point Reserve 2012
Cellar price: R155
Lime through peach plus a slight herbal edge. Shows plenty of finesse with pure fruit and coated acidity.

12.= Iona 2013
Cellar price: R112.50
Lime fruit plus a flinty note on the nose. An arresting wine appearing rather lean with a super-dry finish.

12.= Nitida Club Select 2013
Cellar price: R115
Understated yet complex with notes of lime, peach, blackcurrant and some herbal bite. Not too rich and nice bright acidity.

12.= KWV The Mentors Darling 2012
Cellar price: R120
Lime and white peach plus a distinct herbal bite. Good palate weight and fresh but well integrated acidity.

16. Hermanuspietersfontein No. 5 2012
Cellar price: R160
Lime, blackcurrant and a touch of oak-derived spice. Rich, full and thick textured – currently seems a bit awkward.

17.= KWV The Mentors Stellenbosch 2012
Cellar price: R120
Lime and grapefruit with a little spice on the finish. Pure and concentrated with zippy acidity.

17.= Reyneke Reserve White 2011 – Five Stars in Platter’s
Cellar price: R160
Blackcurrant, some almond and rather a lot of oak on the nose and palate. Very rich and full with a creamy texture and tangy acidity.

19.= Diemersdal MM Louw 2012
Cellar price: R165
Fermented and matured in barrel. Huge flavour intensity (citrus, granadilla and honey) offset by tangy, relatively soft acidity.

19.= Quoin Rock The Nicobar 2012
Cellar price: R145
A wooded example and the oak is definitely apparent.  Rich and broad, the fruit appears somewhat overwhelmed.

The Wade Bales Wine Society is offering a six-bottle mixed case consisting of some of the top wines from this tasting (specifically Diemersdal 8 Rows 2013, Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run 2013, Klein Constantia Perdeblokke 2012, Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2012, Shannon Sanctuary Peak 2013 and Vergelegen Reserve Schaapenberg 2012). R850.00 per case, price excludes delivery – this charged as follows: Cape Town R59, Main R75 and Rural R85 per six-bottle case. To order call Carol Roux on (021) 794 2151 or email carolr@thewinesociety.co.za



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