Sauvignon Blanc 2018 from Orange River Cellars Disrupts Pre-conceived Ideas

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Lafras Huguenet

The image of Sauvignon Blanc, or the image it attempts to create, is of a wine only able to achieve respectability when made from grapes grown in cool regions, preferably those with access to a chilly wet breeze from some nearby ocean. Undeniably, this geography does lead to some superlative expression of South Africa’s most popular single varietal white wine, but not exclusively so.

The latest Sauvignon Blanc from Orange River Cellars based in the Northern Cape around the town of Upington is a case in point. Besides a stunning flavour profile expressing true varietal character shrouded in a light cloak of delicacy, Orange River Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2018 is unique in the sense that the grapes were harvested towards the end of December last year.

One of the features of the Orange River wine region is the fact that grapes do not ripen in strict order, as in the Western Cape. Vineyards lie in a 300km stretch along the river and incorporate the areas of Kakamas and Keimoes to the west of Upington and Groblershoop and Grootdrink east-side. But it is not just the expansive lay-out that causes varieties to ripen at different times. While many of the vineyards are planted in the fertile alluvial soils next to the river and irrigated by the method of flooding with water directly drawn from the Orange, many vines stand in terrains kilometres from the water’s edge. Here soils are rockier, harder and irrigated with water pumped out of the river. Therefore, a much different terroir and growing conditions vastly removed from the vineyards on the Orange’s banks.

orange river e1523522966920 Sauvignon Blanc 2018 from Orange River Cellars Disrupts Pre conceived Ideas

The Orange River Sauvignon Blanc 2018 was made from a vineyard lying on the outer-reaches of Kakamas, planted to stony soils. While summer temperatures in this region are notoriously hot, winter nights are ice-cold and the cool evenings are carried through to spring, allowing for good fruit and berry set. But once ripening began, there was no holding back and just after Christmas 2017 the grapes were ready for harvesting.

With the fruit having been brought to the Kakamas winery – one of Orange River’s five production units – it received conventional treatment. Fermented in stainless steel at a relatively cool temperature. No lees contact during the few weeks in the tank. Drawn off and bottled early in January. Short and sweet.

Tasting this Orange River Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2018 once again proves that when it comes to wine, pre-conceived perceptions are as irrelevant as trying to predict the Lotto. The wine has a stunning perfume of cut grass and rose-petals, with an exciting tanginess that wants you to get it into your mouth pronto.

With an incredibly low 10.8% alcohol per volume, the wine enters the mouth with a gentle, fresh flow of beautiful flavours, far removed from the crunchy pyrazine grip Sauvignon Blancs of a higher alcohol portray. With a balanced pH of 3.32, the incredible harmony of the elements make the wine literally sing in the mouth. There are tropical notes of green papaya, custard apple and bread-fruit, while a medley of quince, gooseberry and green apple lift the refreshment. All the characters of a fine Sauvignon Blanc towing the line between tropical and green are there, but the nimble structure and a mysterious floral aura make it a Sauvignon Blanc that is going to set the tongues wagging in between licking of the lips.

This wine once again shows that there are more diverse and magnificent things to come from the Northern Cape, which might be far-flung, but wine-lovers must know they avoid it at their own peril.