So here we are, the first discussion of a wine from the 2018 vintage. That’s right, this is the Dry Year characterised by the worst domestic water shortages in the history of Cape Town, black-bass having to learn the leopard crawl due to empty dams and Premier Helen Zille sporting a water-saving, unwashed hair-do resembling a wombat that had gotten hold of a tub of Vaseline.
While most of the winelands are still at harvest, Diemersdal Estate from Durbanville released its first Sauvignon Blanc last week, yes, from the same Dry 2018 vintage we are talking about. And this being a wine from Thys Louw, it is more about supplying the thirsty market than a preppy eagerness to get the vintage bottled, like pronto.
Actually, I took me a bottle from the bottling-line last week as it was coming off. Chilled, and opened it that same night, at about the same time the trucks were delivering the stuff at Meridian for distributing.
What I can say about Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc 2018 is that unlike the general lay of the land around us, it is wet. A very wet wine. But Dry, too, the natural sweet sugar having been fermented into mood-levelling alcohol using skill and patience under controlled conditions. What I learnt at Diemersdal is that the fermentation starts cold, and then about two thirds through they turn-off the cooling allowing the process to accelerate like an Elon Musk rocket on Tesla Bonus Day.
This makes the wine work with the lees, sends them cascading through the tropical green juice from Durbanville grapes, and how is this for a fact: all Diemersdal’s vines be dryland, as in no irrigation except from the heavens, and we know how skint this year was. Yet no drop in grape yield on Sauvignon Blanc, how about that?
Back to the wet wine. It smells like stones and pulped granadilla with a brisk line of ripped fennel. Gorgeous in the mouth – where it is also wet – the wine spreads evenly, sending a ream of Kiwi fruit, a line of Key Lime peel with a sensitive layer of winter arum lilies. The finish sees a wonderful tart gooseberry zing with just a hint of sweet melon. Absolutely delectable.
Now, one of the reasons for hating crowds is that the good stuff can be missed or forgotten. Remember Thelema? Some 15 years ago Gyles Webb’s pioneering Simonsberg wine farm would be right up there in most wine-lovers list of Top 10 South African wineries. But with the local wine scene being inundated with ever-more wineries and their accompanying noise, Thelema has taken a back-seat. Generating hype and white noise is just not its thing, although the lack of visible profile does by no means that the wines are not still there at the top.
Thelema Sauvignon Blanc 2017 followed my adventurous tackling of the young Diemersdal, and I was reminded just why this is such an awesome estate. Buy a Thelema – and the range is huge in red and white – and you are assured a quality wine. Well made, and exuding varietal expression. Trust me on this, or don’t.
The Thelema Sauvignon Blanc is just as damn good as always, which says a lot: this farm introduced more wine-lovers to Sauvignon Blanc than Finding Nemo converted vegans into sushi acolytes.
This 2017 Sauvignon Blanc is, like Diemersdal, an unwooded expression of the grape. It creates a scintillating balance between broad, glycerol complexity and shivering, wave-crashing freshness. Not as tropical as Diemersdal, but the greenness in Thelema is glug-worthingly appetising. White asparagus and green apple, with a mouth of just-bitten Lebanese green pepper, dew-fresh cucumber and frozen lemonade.
Like that wine from the Dry Year, this is serious down-the-hatch stuff which we do with glee for the love of wine.