"I don't like Sauvignon Blanc, but I will drink this!"

"I don't like Sauvignon Blanc, but I will drink this!"

These are words I love to hear. Some wines carry baggage, mainly because of their own success. Chardonnay comes to mind for this reason. The rich, toasty, buttery style became so pervasive that people drank it to the point of disliking it, like a pop song that is played over and over and over. But sauvignon blanc is also the victim of its own meteoric rise as a famous white grape, often made into very plain white wine, with acidities that you call “racy” if you’re being kind; “tooth enamel-stripping” is you are being honest.

But – and this applies to all wine grape varieties – we need to be careful of over-simplification or generalisation. There is a reason sauvignon blanc is planted all over the world and is one of the “noble varieties” of France. It makes remarkably rewarding and delicious wine when grown in the right place – and this place is usually a cooler, windswept site. Then the fruit flavours develop into a complex array of delightfulness, and the acidities are refreshing, never hard or puckering.

Great sauvvie is balanced, the natural fruitiness tempered by some austerity (some call it a mineral quality) and integrated acids. These are more in the green herbal zone than the yellow tropical zone, and the Cape makes wonderful examples of these, particularly in the cooler regions like Constantia, Elgin, and Agulhas. Aside from their balance and immediate drinkability, they also age remarkably well (not that this is something South Africans seem to want to do with sauvignon blanc...).

Here are some winners, in my book, exploring different sides of the variety (all available at Wine Village):

Strandveld “Pofadderbos” 2022 – from a single vineyard site, also famous for its reptile inhabitants, this is classic cool-climate sauvvie, with freshness so well integrated into the body. Unfurls in layers of delight.

Lomond Pincushion 2022 – another single vineyard from a cool site, this is a springy, lively wine with fig and nettle flavours. You cannot go wrong with any of the Lomond sauvignon blancs.

Bartho Eksteen Meester 2022 – Eksteen is a “master” of sauvignon, and this example is a beauty, so balanced and charming. One that will win over many doubters of the grape’s quality. His Houtskool is also outstanding.

Harry Hartman “Summer” Stellenbosch 2022 – illustrating the slightly richer, fuller side of the grape, wonderfully charming, a wine that will appeal to everyone.

Klein Constantia Metis 2017 – from a high vineyard in Constantia, this is a classic with intense green characters offset by flintiness. Perfect for appreciating how a few years of bottle age help sauvignon blanc.

Erika Obermeyer “Groenekloof” vintages 2017, 2018 and 2019 – now this is where you can really decide on the merits of older sauvignon for yourself, through a vertical tasting of this famous vineyard, now 23 years old, in the Darling region. Here it moves beyond the grape itself and becomes a beautiful drink that is simply “great wine”.

Newton Johnson 2022 FV Pinot Noir
Newton Johnson Family Vineyards
R 639.00
Ataraxia 2018 Pinot Noir
Ataraxia Wines
R 420.00
Eagle's Cliff 2023 Sauvignon Blanc
New Cape Wines
R 78.00
Raka 2021 Spliced
Raka
R 120.00
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