South Africa`s Top 10 Sauvignon Blancs

The results of the 2012 FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc competition were announced on Thursday over a fantastic lunch at Cassia, situated at Nitida Wine Estate in Durbanville. 

During the course of the afternoon winemakers and members of the media and trade had the opportunity to taste through the Top 20 Sauvignon Blanc wines and guess which one’s made it through to the Top 10. Chef Warren Swaffield matched the four flights of wines with some phenomenal dishes which complemented the wines extremely well.

The competition, presented by the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group of South Africa (SBIG) with sponsorship provided by FNB, celebrates the quality, diversity and regionality of this white wine cultivar which has over the last decade become South Africa’s favourite white grape variety.

Five experienced judges had the challenging task of tasting 195 entered wines (compared to 169 in 2011) in order to first select the Top 20 and then to whittle it down to the exclusive group of 10, representing the wines that the judges agreed showed the most distinctive features of South African Sauvignon Blanc, while maintaining elegance, clean fruit expression and overall balance.

The 2012 FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc winners are:

Clos Malverne 2011

De Morgenzon DMZ 2012

Diemersdal MM Louw 2011 (wooded)

Driehoek 2012

Du Toitskloof 2012

Groote Post 2012

Lomond Pincushion 2011

Neethlingshof Single Vineyard 2012

Simonsig Sunbird 2012

Virgin Earth Pepper Tree 2012

For judging panel chairperson and wine writer, Christian Eedes, the Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 competition was initiated to promote innovation and excellence, and the Top 10 wines display these characteristics. The fact that the ten winning wines originate from very different producing areas including Cape Agulhas, Breedekloof, Cederberg, Darling, Durbanville, Elgin, Langeberg-Garcia and Stellenbosch gives a clear indication that South Africa’s great diversity of macro and micro climates allow for a broad range of Sauvignon Blanc styles.

According to Christian, Sauvignon Blanc lovers can choose between a wide spectrum of flavour profiles and wine styles, including green and herbaceous, yellow fruit/tropical fruit, flinty and mineral, blackcurrant and elderberry, or wines that have been subjected to some oak, either being barrel fermented or matured.

Christian Eedes was joined by Miguel Chan, sommelier for the Tsogo Sun hotel group, Richard Kershaw MW of Richard Kershaw Wines, Mark Norrish, general manager of the Ultra Liquors wine division and Erika Obermeyer of Graham Beck Wines and chairperson of SBIG.

Here are some thought from this year’s judges:

Erika Obermeyer’s general impression of this year’s entries is that a significant shift in style from greener (pyrazine-derived) flavours towards more tropical fruit (thiol-derived) flavours was evident. “I suspect that winemakers endeavoured to attain greater drinkability in this way,” she says. “Ultimately however it should be about the balance and synergy between these two compounds.”

Mark Norrish indicated some concern about the ultra-green flavours in some wines which can correspond to ultra-acidity. “Consumers are increasingly coming out against Sauvignon Blanc’s high acidity and producers can head this off by adding Semillon up to the 15% maximum level. This not only softens the acidity but adds another dimension to the wine,” Norrish explains.

Richard Kershaw felt that several esther-driven wines (very pretty but destined to be short-lived) performed well. According to Richard these wines inevitably show very well when young but do tend to lose their fruit rather quickly. “Wine lovers should be advised to drink and enjoy sooner than later.”

According to Francois Marais, Head of Agriculture at FNB, competition most often brings out the best performances in an industry. “The FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 competition encourages the creation of superb wines and promotes a cultivar despite times of difficult financial challenges on the local and international front.”

An FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc pack, including one bottle of each of the winning wines, will be sold through the Wade Bales Wine Society in limited quantities, as some of the wines in the Top 10 were produced in very small volumes.

Click here to view some snap-shots taken at the event.