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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2001-11-2)

The sauvignon blanc white grape has its origins in France, in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, and its wines have been produced with great success in California and, most conspicuously, New Zealand. In South Africa this cultivar has become increasingly prominent over the past dozen years or so, and there are now about 200 different sauvignons made at the Cape (excluding blended wines with sauvignon as a component). It is a wine with a huge range of flavours and styles, from ultra-dry to off-dry, with tastes and smells that include asparagus, grass, fig, flint, gooseberry, granadilla, lemon and various other qualities, real and imagined.

At the last meeting of our private wine group Alf Sudheim, secretary of the Durban Country Club, presented eight sauvignon blancs of high standard from the 2000 vintage, all of them at their best now (most people agree that this wine needs a year or so of bottle maturation to reach its peak).

The wines were bought in Durban, the tasting was blind as usual, and, predictably enough I suppose, top marks on average went to the most expensive item, the Vergelegen sauvignon blanc from Somerset West which retails at about R57 a bottle. Vergelegen is one of the show places of the Western Cape and its wines are consistently good. This sauvignon had a strong, fruity bouquet and palate ---various tasters detected grapefruit, guava, litchi and fig --- and a dry finish.

Joint second on our scoring were the well-known Klein Constantia (R44) and the Paul Cluver sauvignon from Elgin (R31,50). The Klein Constantia is described in John Platter’s Guide as being “full of youthful bravado, though less typically thrusting”, a remark that provoked some ribald comment from the tasters. Both were lovely wines, the Paul Cluver pale and lemony.

All the wines scored well, as one would expect from a hand-picked bunch. The others tasted were Villiera from Paarl, grassy passion fruit character, R27,50; Ken Forrester from Stellenbosch, bright, zesty, R28,80; Morgenhof, also Stellenbosch, tones of nettle and fig, R33,50; Waterford, a fairly new cellar at Stellenbosch, R38,95; and Southern Right, a cellar in the Walker Bay (Hermanus) area, this sauvignon quite assertive and tangy (R33,20)

* * * * *

Several of the KWV’s international wines won high praise recently in the American publication Wine Enthusiast. The 1997 Cathedral Cellar cabernet sauvignon was assessed at 90 points out of a hundred, the 1998 Roodeberg, KWV’s celebrated blended red, scored 88 out of a hundred, and the 1998 Cathedral Cellar merlots and 1999 KWV pinotage each scored 86 points. These wines are not generally available in South Africa. – Michael Green




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