Barely a week away from the well-publicised revolution happening in the Swartland, it seems that there is another one taking place in everyone’s favourite white grape variety Sauvignon Blanc. There has been plenty of changes in this year’s Challenge – mainly because Wine magazine (who organised the challenge for all the years it has been held) is no more. But the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group is active and engaged, and wasn’t going to let a little thing like no organiser hold them back. They found sponsorship, organised the tasting, argued over the results for a long time (apparently) and then announced them in an interesting tasting/food pairing/event today.
Why do I call it a revolution then? I suppose it’s mainly because this is something different. When the top 20 were announced a week or so ago, already there were mutterings about the lack of many usual suspects – where was Cape Point, Groote Post, Graham Beck, Thelema, Nitida, Iona, Paul Cluver, Steenberg, Lomond - to name but a few celebrated Sauvignon-makers? And what on earth were warm-climate producers like Bergsig, Overhex, Rietvallei, Clos Malverne , Franschhoek Cellars doing on that list when EVERYONE knows that only cool climate can make good Sauvignon Blanc?
And then what about the prices? How on earth could a wine costing R26.99 be on the same terms as ones costing well over R100? Surely it was included merely to make up numbers – otherwise, why on earth are we paying so much when we could be paying so little?
And then finally – where was the common theme? So many Sauvignon competitions have been of a particular style – either going for the lean, mean and green or the Carmen Miranda fruitbomb style. This list contained all those and more, with flintiness, baked fruits, vegetal notes etc, etc. And having tasted through all the top 20, I can honestly say that no 2 wines were the same.
For me, this list is a triumph of blind tasting. According to panel chairman, Christian Eedes, it was a complete surprise when wines such as Lutzville and Bergsig came through to the finals – but come through it did, and entirely on the merits of what is in the bottle. He is extremely proud of the fact that there is something for everyone in this list – and so he should be, because whether you want the big names or the newbies, the tropical or the tangy, the cheap or the pricy – this list has them all. And in addition, I believe it also proves that there is a vibrant interest in competitions still out there. People just need to get off their backsides and make it happen.
The FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 2011 in price order
Lutzville Cool Climate 2010 R26.99
Woolworths (WHAT)? 2011 by Bergsig Estate R39.95
Franschhoek Cellar Statue de Femme 2011 R40
Wade Bales Winemaker Selection Thys Louw 2011 R49
Overhex Soulo 2011 R65
Clos Malverne 2011 R76
Boschendal Reserve Collection 2011 R90
Delaire Coastal Cuvee 2011 R95
Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Limited Release 2011 R95
David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner 2011 R165