The Agulhas Wine Triangle: Sauvignon Blanc just got serious
1 May was International Sauvignon Blanc Day and it feels like our humble savvy bee is making a comeback around the world. According to wine importers in America, it’s the fastest-growing white wine category in the United States, and here in South Africa there is renewed excitement amongst wine critics over the ever-strengthening high-end world of sauvignon blanc.
It’s amidst this global sauvignon surge that the Agulhas Wine Triangle emerges as a supremely exciting region for wine explorers to visit. The triangle stretches from the western edge of the Agulhas Plain to the far eastern edge of this southernmost point of Africa at Malgas, surrounding the interior vineyards found in the historic towns of Napier and Elim. Now, while the farmers and winemakers in the region have been hard at work for decades, the wine world is only just starting to wake up to the unique flavours of the wines coming out of the region.
Most of us are familiar with the “cut grass, green fruit, and citrus” sauvignons of Constantia or the “pineapple and passion fruit” fruit fests from Stellenbosch, but the Agulhas Wine Triangle is delivering wines with a delightfully different profile. With the unusual combinations of sea spray, lemonade, white peach, salted limes, elderflower and nectarine, wine lovers can’t say they’ve fully experienced South African sauvignon without having tasted the experienced areas like Agulhas, Elim, Napier and Swellendam.
Here are a few deliciously distinct wines that will give you a glimpse into the exciting waves of change that are happening in the Agulhas Wine Triangle.
- The Strandveld Pofadder Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (R160)
For lovers of the classics. This award-winning unwooded sauvignon blanc is one of the region’s longest-standing bottlings. It’s a single-vineyard wine, made by winemaker Conrad Vlok, offering notes of fresh green pear, white peach and hints of the fynbos. For anyone who doubts whether sauvignon blanc can age, it’s worth contacting the estate and begging them for a few bottles of the 2017 and 2018 vintages.
- The Ghost Corner Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (R250)
Produced by winemaker David Nieuwoudt (he’s kinda like the Rain Man of sauvignon blanc), this wooded savvy bee has garnered a ridiculous amount of acclaim. The natural fruit elements of pear, gooseberry, cut grass and winter melon are filled out by oaky elements of butterscotch, creamy lemon curd and a lovely creamy, leesy texture on the palate. Mouth-filling in the best way possible.
- The Black Oystercatcher White Pearl Blend 2018 (R180)
The white wines from Black Oystercatcher are both critical darlings and best-kept secrets. If you work in the wine industry, you’re in love with them. If you don’t, you may not even know that they exist. But now is the time to change that! The White Pearl is a semillon-suvignon blanc blend aged in French oak. It’s a glorious melding of lemongrass, elderflower, green melon and asparagus wrapped in salted caramel, with a hint of smoky flint.
- Lomond Estate Pin Cushion Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (R170)
If you want a gentle introduction to what the Agulhas Wine Triangle has to offer, this slightly more familiar rendition of sauvignon blanc is a single block bottling that offers elements of gooseberry, guava, some passionfruit and hints of grapefruit pith on the finish. If you’re hankering after some bragging rights when you serve this, it’s worth noting that the 2019 vintage earned a Platter five-star rating.
- Giant Periwinkle Wind Scorpion 2020 (R130)
Another best-kept secret from the region. Winemaker PJ Rabie is an absolute maverick, producing some of the most exciting white wines in the region. The Wind Scorpion has remarkable notes of lime, peach and orange blossom, alongside cut grass and capsicum elements. The only way to get these boutique wines is to order them directly from the estate, but don’t let that deter you. In fact, Rabie offers what a lot of producers refuse to – the ability to order multiple vintages and have your own little #winegeek vertical tasting. PS If you prefer bigger wooded sauvignon blancs, get all the vintages of his fumé blanc to fill the gaps around your Wind Scorpion order.
- The First Sighting Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (R90)
This wine rocketed to stardom when the 2017 vintage earned a 97-point score and Platinum award from Decanter. All for the grand total of R75! This current vintage received a Platter 4.5-star rating and – at R90 – still presents some of the best value in the region. The wine is all about elderflower, winter melon, and a crisp, fresh lemon zest finish.