6 May is International Sauvignon Blanc Day. Sauvignon Blanc’s popularity in a country with a warm climate and alfresco lifestyle, is easy to understand. The wine’s refreshing qualities make it easy to enjoy regardless of whether the style is more tropical and fruitier or more mineral and herbaceous. With a wide variety of styles, South African Sauvignon Blanc is also a wonderful showcase for our diversity.
The diversity of terroir within our wine producing areas enables us to produce those ultimate sipping Sauvignon Blancs as well as the more serious styles that mature well and have an often-underrated food pairing ability. Warmer climate Sauvignon Blancs generally combine their inherent freshness with tropical fruit flavours. More than the alfresco enjoyment, however, some SA styles remind of the famous New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs – wine with the pronounced flavours and aromas of asparagus, canned peas, cut grass, gooseberries and green pepper. Others offer minerality and have a character similar to the wines from France – the Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire (especially Sancerre).
As Sauvignon Blanc can be such a beautiful expression of where it grows, some time ago, La Motte Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche hosted a few Sauvignon Blanc afficionados to a tasting comparing local cool climate Sauvignon Blancs from the West Coast to those from the South Coast. The tasting of twelve wines included some well-known brands from famous Sauvignon Blanc terroir and other less familiar and unique terroir such as Vermaaklikheid. (Read more) Most interesting to me was that I found the wines from the West Coast to have those typical green flavours often associated with Sauvignon Blanc – asparagus, peas, cut grass. The South Coast examples, in my opinion, offered more minerality and a certain saline quality that I truly enjoyed. Minerality can be hard to define and it might be a bit over used nowadays, but for me the description of “oyster shell” captures it very well – there is almost a sense of texture to the idea that echoes that crispness on the palate. (Have a look at this short little Sauvignon Blanc video, it gives you a lovely “feel” for the variety)
Within South African Sauvignon Blanc, you can find easy-drinkers filled with tropical fruit, those distinctive New-Zealand style with pyrazines flavours as well as some similar to the flinty Sancerres. No wonder then that Sauvignon Blanc is popular for both consumers and producers. Not only is it the most popular varietal white wine consumed locally, but it also generally sells at a better price than many of its white competitors. According to SAWIS statistics, 13% of SA Sauvignon Blancs sell between R100 and R120 / litre while this is only true for 7% of Chenin Blanc.
Perhaps you like Sauvignon Blanc purely as a glass to temper summer. Perhaps you enjoy exploring its complexities and appreciate its often-underrated food pairing ability. (Try these recipes) I love how it takes me from a relaxing glass at sunset, how it complements acidity and cuts through richness. Regardless of the season or the reason, I think Sauvignon Blanc deserves its own day. Cheers!