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Down with 'Wine Paedophilia'!

Cathy Marston goes to a tasting which challenges the idea that the only good Sauvignon is a young one.

by: Cathy Marston | 22 Jun 2010
Winemaker Lukas Wentzel and owner Nick Pentz

I had some of my first 2010 Sauvignon Blancs last week – surprisingly, this is actually much later than I would normally have tasted them if I had still had a restaurant. It seems as if every year, the race to get that year’s wine to the shelf becomes shorter and shorter. For some of the cheaper Sauvignons, tasting them as young as possible is a good thing as they don’t really improve with age. But some do, and a tasting last week proved that point all over again.

2009 was generally admitted to be a stonking year for Sauvignon Blanc with many wineries making a reserve wine – some of them, like Bouchard Finlayson, for the first time. One winery which has been taking Sauvignon seriously for a few years is Groote Post Vineyards in the cool climate area of Darling. I was invited to taste several vintages of their reserve Sauvignon at Cargills Restaurant in Rondebosch and as I tasted, I was struck by how fantastically a really well-made Sauvignon can age – and how wrong we are to always insist on having the skin stripped off our teeth by young, unready wines.

The Pentz family changed from cattle farming to grapes just over a decade ago now and have spent the last ten years transforming their farm into a truly African experience. You can go on game drives, watch birds, play on the jungle gym, eat delicious food at Hilda’s Kitchen, their onsite restaurant and – of course – try their wines. Winemaker Lukas Wentzel has an elegant, restrained style and his Sauvignons are packed with herbaceous green flavours which mellow with age to offer rich, savoury notes with subtle acidity and balance.

Some wineries have had the bravery (and deep enough pockets) to keep their 2009’s until now when they are just beginning to show their true class. If you’ve got them then now is the time to start thinking about drinking Groote Post, Nitida, Cape Point, Oak Valley, Steenberg, Diemersdal and some of the other leading SA Sauvignons, rather than any earlier when all they show is a mouthful of teeth-searing acidity. And if you can keep them a little longer – well, check out my notes on the vintages below and see how just a couple of years' patience can make for something truly splendid.

2005 Groote Post Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
Honeyed, herbaceous notes on the nose with a good hint of mushy peas in there too! Very-present acidity beautifully balanced by slightly woolly yellow apple flavours. Touch of sweetness on the long finish makes for an elegant wine crying out for some food – a lobster bisque or something similarly rich and dramatic.

2007 Groote Post Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

Strong aromas of iceberg lettuce which follows through onto the palate. Lower acidity than previous but a fresh, lively mouthfeel with flavours of green asparagus, lettuce and some fig notes as well. Not quite as intense as 2005.

2009 Groote Post Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

Quite shy on the nose with aromas of peas and furry green beans. A rich and ripe mouthfeel offset by lively acidity and well-balanced fruit and alcohol. Excellent length, a truly satisfying wine. This is the current vintage and goes for approx R100 at specialist wine shops.

2010 Groote Post Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

The first reserve in an even year – Lukas reckons that odd years produce better wines in general! This was a tank sample and showed plenty of ripe figs and grapefruits with a puckering acidity. Would be a crime to go near this one for at least 18 months. 

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