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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #180 (article first published : 2007-08-14)

Traditionally the annual Nederburg wine auction has been dominated by red wines, but nowadays there is an increasing interest in high quality white wines, and this will be reflected in the coming 2007 auction, the thirty-third, to be held at Paarl on September 28 and 29.

I read somewhere recently that a foreign expert --- there are many foreign experts --- declared that the sauvignon blanc grape produced South Africa’s best wines in the international reckoning. There may be some truth in this. Not everybody likes sauvignon blanc – I know one or two people who actively dislike this cultivar --- but the best of our Cape sauvignons certainly bear comparison with the best from countries such as New Zealand. My wife and I recently drank at home a bottle of Oak Valley 2005 sauvignon blanc from the Elgin area and it was superb (price about R60, not cheap but worth every cent).

The Nederburg auction manager, Christine Joubert, says that this year, for the first time, current vintages will be on sale at the auction. The judging panel which decides whether wines are worthy of the auction chose seven white wines from the 2007 vintage and all of them are sauvignon blanc.

One of them is the 2007 Elgin Heights Sauvignon Blanc, the first wine to be released by the winemaker and owner of the farm, D.D. Joubert.

Another is Graham Beck’s picturesquely named Pheasants’ Run, made by Erika Obermeyer, one of the few women winemakers. The cellars of Graham Beck Wines are at Robertson and Franschhoek, but the grapes for this wine came from ocean-facing vineyards at Darling and Durbanville, on the Cape west coast. The wine is described as having tropical notes of ripe figs as well as aromas of asparagus and tinned peas, with a crisp, elegant finish.

The Nederburg cellar itself has two sauvignon blanc offerings. The Private Bin 215 is made from 15-year-old Durbanville vines and has rich, tropical flavours. The private Bin 234, sourced from a 10-year-old vineyard at Darling, is herbaceous, with green and grassy aromas. Both these vineyards are un-irrigated, relying solely on rainfall.

The Ken Forrester Sauvignon Blanc, from Stellenbosch, is described as having wafts of hay, a tart, fresh sherbet mouthfeel and a long finish of pineapple and melon.

The Nitida Club Select, from the Durbanville winery of that name, is intensely flavoured and elegant, and the La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc, from Franschhoek, has a minerally core with a tangy grapefruit finish, laced with white pepper.

As you can see, there is quite a range of tastes and smells there, and it will be interesting to observe whether these wines will match the prices sometimes paid for the quality reds.

At the auction about 140 wines, representing about 70 producers, will come under the hammer of auctioneer Stephan Welz. – Michael Green




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