Michelangelo Kiwi judge gets a taste of South African Sauvignon Blanc

Top image: Ben Glover

South African Sauvignon Blanc definitely has the potential to be a contender on the world stage. According to Ben Glover, New Zealand wine judge and winemaker who is a judge at this year’s Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards, says that the refinement and sophistication of the Sauvignon Blancs on the judges’ line-up showed an intriguing diversity.

“The variation of terroir and regional diversity offers a wide range of expression in the South African wines, from tropical and sunny to more restrained and pyrazine-driven as well as wines looking for integrity of site and texture,” says Glover, who is owner and winemaker at Glover Family Vineyards and The Coterie based in Marlborough, New Zealand’s premier Sauvignon Blanc region. 

“This being the biggest white wine category in this year’s competition with over 200 entries, there was obviously always going to be a number of wines lacking the poise and intensity of the cultivar, as is the case in every competition of this size,” he says. 

“But there have been some really brilliant wines where intelligent, deft wooding has been used or the winegrower is looking at solids and skins as a function. For complexity and intrigue the wines also spent a bit of time on the lees. These are very refined and complex, great and interesting Sauvignon Blanc wines that would impress any wine judge at any competition in the world. 

“This is my first visit to South Africa and the first time I have had the opportunity to taste such an extensive range of your wines over a two-day period. Sauvignon Blanc truly has the potential to be a major proposition for the country, both in terms of value and quality.

“My advice is – don’t chase the Kiwi style. Be confident in your own self-belief and styles, and the Sauvignon Blanc category and drinker will be better for it.”

Glover says that Sauvignon Blanc’s reputation as one-trick pony of over-done, fruit-cocktail wines is over. 

“This style worked well in getting the global markets interested, and helped put New Zealand on the world stage 30-odd years ago,” says Glover. “But as seems the case in South Africa, back home the Sauvignon Blanc producers are broadening their stylistic offering with things like wood, natural ferments, extended contact and aging to show the potential of this great variety with vine age that continues to capture the imagination of the consumer world-wide.”