Invited guests included the Top 20 Finalists for the awards, and tasting tables had been set up to allow the twenty Finalist wines to be tasted. No one knew who would make the Top 10 list. A shelf had been set up to display all top twenty Sauvignon Blanc wines. Colorful canapés were served during the tasting, including mozzarella tarts, asparagus and ham, crayfish tarts, and wontons. Writers attending were thanked for spreading the word about the awards.
FNB’s Head of Agriculture Francois Marais praised the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group, under the chairmanship of Thys Louw, for ‘doing a good job‘, and helping to promote entrepreneurism in the wine industry. Sauvignon Blanc represents 10% of our country’s wine production and consumption, and helps to create 300000 jobs in the wine industry. He said that our country has 565 wine cellars, and 900 winemakers, of which an increasing number are female. Women wine buyers are 15 % of all females, making the purchasing decision, while men only represent 4%.
For the FNB Sauvignon Blanc 2015 awards, 234 wines were entered, a 15% increase on 2014, and in a price range of R42 – R200. Thys Louw said that the quality of Sauvignon Blanc wines shows in that more of this wine is exported in bottles than in bulk, it being the most popular single cultivar wine in our country, and also representing the largest category in the Veritas Awards.
- 3 wineries had two wines each on the Top 20 list (Cederberg, Nederburg, Kleine Salze)
- twelve of the twenty wines were 2015 vintages, six were 2014, and two were from 2013.
- there was an increase in wooded wines, there being a better understanding amongst winemakers of barrel fermentation
- the average Sauvignon Blanc price of the twenty Finalist wines was R104.
- whereas Constantia was the leading Sauvignon Blanc producing region thirty years ago, the ‘Marlborough of South Africa’, not one Sauvignon Blanc from this region made the Top 20 list this year. Thirteen regions were included in the Top 20 list, including Stellenbosch, Elim, Darling, Bot River, Breedekloof, Cederberg, and more.
- of the top five wine awards, the Top 20 only won a maximum of two awards, highlighting inconsistency, which Hopkins said they want to address next year.
- of all the entries received, 51% had cork closures, and 49% screw caps. Of the Top 10 wines, 4 were closed with cork, and 6 with screw caps.
- Merwida Sauvignon Blanc 2015, wine maker Magnus Kriel, thanking the judges and saying it is an honour to be part of the Top 10. He said that it is hot in the Breedekloof, and that a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the making of their Sauvignon Blanc.
- Mooiplaas Sauvignon Blanc 2015, winemaker Louis Roos, from Stellenbosch. He said that Sauvignon Blanc is not an easy variety, and that half the time they did not know what they were doing!
- Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc 2015, winemaker David Nieuwoudt. They said it is a privilege to work with the grapes and enjoy the fresh air.
- Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2015, with Miles Mossop as winemaker. He thanked FNB for its support, and praised the variety, which he has worked with for sixteen years. He said that 2015 was a great vintage.
- Jordan Sauvignon Blanc 2014, winemaker Sjaak Nelson with Gary and Kathy Jordan. While they are located in a warmer part of Stellenbosch, they have a higher cooler section for their Sauvignon Blanc. He said that 2014 had been a difficult vintage.
- Nederburg II Centuries Sauvignon Blanc (wooded) 2014, winemaker Natasha representing new winemaker Andrea Freeborough. Razvan Macici, former Nederburg winemaker and now head winemaker at Distell, came to support his team, proudly dressed in Springbok support gear! Natasha said it was her maiden vintage, and thanked FNB, saying it was a privilege to win the award for her wine.
- Kleine Salze Family Reserve Sur Lie Sauvignon Blanc 2015, winemakers Alastair Rimmer and RJ Botha. This year they changed their style of the wine, sourcing grapes from Durbanville, Stellenbosch, and Darling. Sauvignon Blanc is one of their passions, it was said, and they are ‘flipping trots’!
- Overhex Wines International Survivor Sauvignon Blanc (wooded) 2015, winemaker Ben Snyman. I attended the Survivor launch two months ago, and the team were delighted and proud to have made the ABSA Top 10 for their Survivor Pinotage, Top 10 for their Survivor Sauvignon Blanc, and a 41/2 Platter score for their Chenin Blanc, a most successful new launch of their four Survivor wines.
- Spier 21 Gables Sauvignon Blanc 2015, winemaker Jacques Erasmus. Sauvignon Blanc is an exciting variety to work with, he said, and he praised the judges for having done a good job!
- Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards Sing-A-Wing Sauvignon Blanc 2015, winemaker Christiaan Coetzee. They are 400 – 600 meters above sealevel, close to False Bay, and harvest two weeks later than other farms.
The other Top 20 Finalists received a certificate too: Durbanville Hills Rhinofields Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Ghost Corner Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Hidden Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Kleine Salze Family Reserve Sur Lie Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Lomond Cape Agulhas Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Mulderbosch 1000 Miles Sauvignon Blanc (wooded) 2013, Nederburg Private Bin D234 Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Rivendell Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Shannon Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc (wooded) 2015, and Windmeul Kelder Sauvignon Blanc 2015.
I was entertained by Adam Mason from Mulderbosch, who was seated at the same table, with the winemaking team of Uva Mira. I asked Adam what his wine passion is, and he said it is Chenin Blanc, being a wine variety he has only worked with in the last three years, from the time he joined Mulderbosch, the wine estate having made Chenins for many years already. He was previously at Klein Constantia, and they do not make a Chenin Blanc. While Chenin Blanc expresses the terroir of the grapes, Sauvignon Blanc is more precious and has its own distinctive character, Adam explained. In his private capacity Adam and his ‘colleague’ Chef Peter Tempelhoff make Yardstick and Marvelous wines, with the backing of Mulderbosch owner Charles Banks from the USA. Adam and Peter had met accidentally, ‘paired’ in an article about food and wine, not having met before. Chef Peter wanted to learn more about wines, and Adam was interested in the relationship between food and wines, and so they became good friends seven years ago, which led to the wine collaboration, the wines being listed at Chef Peter’s Greenhouse restaurant.
Adam studied B.Sc Agriculture at the University of Stellenbosch, specializing in viticulture and oenology. It was interesting to learn about his passion for gardening, and often he goes straight to the garden when he gets home from work. His parents inspired the passion, and Adam has a vegetable garden too, saying it is very therapeutic. It is his ‘happy place‘, a reward for what he gives to the garden, and teaches one to be observant to survive. He talks to his plants. He has a foreman dealing with his vines, he told me when I asked him if he has the same close relationship with his vines.
The starter was unexciting, being Vietnamese-spiced chicken strips on peppery leaves, spring onion, bean sprouts, fresh mint, coriander, crispy rice noodles, and toasted cashews. The main course was an excellent seared Norwegian salmon which was served with citrus, beetroot, sugar snaps, and new potato salad, topped with a Cointreau Hollandaise. Clever was the dessert, which was a buffet display of toffee and almond shortbread, assorted macaroons, home-made Turkish Delight, chocolate brownies, panna cotta with Berry coulis, white chocolate and caramel cake, dark chocolate torte, and meringues.
We had an enjoyable and entertaining afternoon at Val de Vie, as guests of FNB and the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group, ending off a busy week. A full collection of the FNB Top 10 2015 Sauvignon Blanc wines is available from the Wine of the Month Club.
Today and tomorrow the Season of Sauvignon takes place in Durbanville, the participating wine farms being Altydgedacht, Bloemendal, D’Aria, De Grendel, Hillcrest, Klein Roosboom, Meerendal, Nitida, Diemersdal, Phizante Kraal, Signal Gun, and Durbanville Hills.
Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group. www.sauvignon.com Twitter: @SauvignonSA
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here