The South African Sauvignon Blanc
Interestingly, the specific taste of each region’s version of the Sauvignon Blanc differs slightly depending on the climate and soil conditions. Because South Africa is a country that is as diverse as the people it is home to, each farm’s Sauvignon Blanc bears its own unique flavour, whether grassy, crisp or fruity. Despite being defined by its dry, fresh nature, this grape can also be used in the production of dessert wines. Sauvignon Blanc does not take long to mature, and is best when it is still young. It is ideal alongside a dish of fish or cheese. Interestingly, it also goes down well with pasta and sushi.
Because the taste of a Sauvignon Blanc is so dependent on the area and other environmental criteria, South Africa prides itself for its rich array of quality wines. Each one, with its signature aroma, shows off another little corner of this fantastically fertile land. Vines can be planted in rock, sand or flint, which also affects the bouquet and flavour, especially to the trained taster. It is believed that South Africa’s advantage in producing the ideal Sauvignon Blanc lies in our ability to balance acidity and fruitiness in perfect ratio to one another.
South Africa’s Sauvignon Blancs have featured high amongst international competitors, and are in enormous demand the world round. Gaining international acclaim sets South Africa apart amongst wine producers. By setting this standard, SA has gained credibility, not only for these grapes, but for a host of other varieties too. Some of the most outstanding Sauvignon Blancs to compete on a global level include Boschendal, Cederberg, Constantia Glen, Fryers Cove, Graham Beck, Jordan, Klein Constantia, Nederburg and Springfield.
Wine farmers frequently elect to pick Sauvignon Blanc grapes at different intervals in the season. This lends the end product a complex combination of flavours. The riper the grape, the sweeter it is. By combining these with the tarter, younger berries, the flavour is enhanced and balanced. When the berries are being gathered, oxygen is excluded to ensure that the flavour is kept inside the grape.
This reductive process is carried through right until the wine is bottled. The contact between the skin and the juice of the grape also needs to be monitored so that the flavours are controlled. If the contact between these two components of the grape is left for too long after picking, the wine becomes very intense. This reduces the aging ability of the wine significantly.
Even the temperature at which the Sauvignon Blanc is fermented impacts heavily on the resultant flavour. When fermentation is conducted under warmer conditions, the resulting wine has a grassier, earthy taste to it. Cooler temperatures bring out the fruity, tropical qualities of the wine. Although this wine does not require a long aging process and is best enjoyed young, oak barrels soften the flavour, while steel barrels maintain the very crisp, dry quality of the wine.
With such an adaptable and easily influenced grape, South African wine farmers are granted the ideal opportunity to prove the quality that this country’s rich soil and climate enables. This is most perfectly reflected in the crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
Fiona Phillips has an M.B.A. from the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business and completed several Cape Wine Academy courses, culminating in Diploma II. Her passion for wine and her fascination for the limitless possibilities of the Internet motivated the start-up http://www.cybercellar.com