Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most familiar of the Southern Hemisphere’s white wines, and along with Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, is also one of the most planted grape vines in South Africa. The country has no real claim to rival New Zealand as the biggest grower of Sauvignon Blanc in the tri-nation countries, but South Africa is still a big producer of the wine, both as a single varietal and as a blender along with other wines such as Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Despite New Zealand’s claim to be the best maker of this wine, some modern wine experts believe that South Africa has the potential to overtake the former country.
The secret behind this lies in South Africa’s practice of experimentation. Unlike the majority of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, the South African wine production tends to focus upon new methods and new tastes which can give the wine an extra complexity. With the ability to make tremendous differences in the production of Sauvignon Blanc, it is no surprise that many experts are coming to the conclusion that South African Sauvignon Blanc wines are some of the best in the New World. The most noted difference between the two is the flavour and variety which South African wine makers are able to bring to the Sauvignon Blanc.
What South African wines tend to bring to the table is an air of refinement which is entirely missing from the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. Although the latter wines are considered to be boisterous and aromatic, they often lack sophistication and elegance. South Africa’s wine producers have managed to encourage the Sauvignon Blanc back to its homeland, near the Loire, while still bringing a modern, crisp texture to the wines. This has brought it to the attention of the international market, and there are more Sauvignon Blanc wines being exported from South Africa than in previous decades.
The main difference in recent wine production has been the adaptability of South African wine growers. The Sauvignon Blanc does not really enjoy hot climates, and prefers a slightly cooler temperature than South Africa can produce. However, by locating Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in the Constantia region, the vines are exposed to cooling winds from the Atlantic Ocean, and South-East breezes from False Bay. This makes it a great location for the production of large, fruit-flavoured grapes which can then be turned into excellent Sauvignon Blanc wines.
There are a number of wineries, such as the Iona Sauvignon Blanc from Elgin, close to the Atlantic. The cool air this vineyard gets allows the grapes to ripen slowly, encouraging the acidity and fruitiness of the berries. The grapes are then fermented before being mixed together with fruits to produce the finished wine. When sampling the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Iona, expect lots of berries including elderberry, and gooseberry, along with a slight hint of slate in the aftertaste. You will also note citrus, lemongrass and apple when drinking this wine, and this is just one of the many varieties of Sauvignon Blanc available to South African wine drinkers.