Sunset for Durbanville’s Sauvignon Blanc reputation?


I was rather disappointed during the weekend’s Sauvignon Blanc Festival to find a distinct shift towards a much fruitier style wine than the 2009 vintage.

,Sauvignon Blanc is the white cultivar and I relish the green pepper/asparagus/grassy expression of the Durbanville ward. Wine growers here claim their cooler average growing temperatures compared to, for example, Stellenbosch, allow them to make Sauvignons with plenty of methoxypyrazines ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ the substance causing the distinct herbaceousness.

,The 2010’s I tasted from most Durbanville estates were way short on these flavours. Most of the wines were dominated by guava, papaya, and green apple flavours. The D’Aria Sauvignon Blanc even had a rather Weisser Riesling-kind of petrol note on the nose. I am but a trainee winemaker, but I would have been hard-pressed to even pick this wine as a Sauvignon Blanc in a blind tasting.

,Bloemendal’s offering ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ the Suiderterras – was the only 2009 in the line up and stood out like a sore thumb for its green pepper/grassy flavours. (I did not visit Bloemendal and do not know whether a 2010 has been released, and if so, if it also went fruitier.) The only other wine conforming to my idea of what a Durbanville Sauvignon Blanc should taste like was Nitida’s 2010 Club Select.

,Do not get me wrong. These wines are not bad at all. In fact, they make for rather pleasant drinking. My criticism may be wholly unfair in the sense that the fruitier 2010s could have been merely a vintage variation. I think not, but I would not mind being corrected on this score.

,But the point is, I would have had difficulty in a blind tasting to pick them as having been grown in a distinct, cool climate area. I could just as well have been drinking a Sauvignon Blanc from Stellenbosch.

,This begs a question: What is the point of claiming special status for a cultivar for your growing region ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ as the Durbanville ward does for Sauvignon Blanc – and then turn around and produce wines that are pretty much generic?

,I do understand that this fruitier style has more market appeal. Wine must sell, otherwise it is pointless to make it in the first place. I also feel for the gentleman who told Nitida winemaker and marketing manager, Jacus Marais, that their wonderful 2009 Sauvignon “trek sy poephol op ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+ën knop”. There is always Chenin Blanc for this gentleman.

,To be rather blunt, it appears that the majority of wine growers in Durbanville has sold out to the market and/or the prevailing fashionable taste of wine competitions. I sat at the Veritas awards last year and watched a video clip in which the chairwoman of the Sauvignon Blanc tasting panel stated that her panel had been looking for fruitier Sauvignon Blancs. Durbanville 2009s ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ needless to say ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ did not feature in the 2009 Veritas.

,Maybe the 2010 Veritas panel prefers the more austere, herbaceous style. Who knows what the 2011 Sauvignons from Durbanville will then taste like?

,On a happier note: I tasted a 2003 Kleine Zalze Sauvignon Blanc and also a 2003 Bloemendal Suiderterras (both unearthed from a stash of wine at our family compound in Hermanus) last week. Both drank exceedingly well. Neither had even a whiff of oxidation. The Kleine Zalze had aquired a lovely golden colour and had pleasing marmalade notes. The Bloemendal was fresh, well balanced, and still had plenty of Durbanville zing.

,Do not buy into the myth that a Sauvignon Blanc has to be consumedbwithin a year of its vintage. But, also, do not hide away your R25 bottle and think it still will be great in five years’ time.

, Riaan Smit

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3 thoughts on “Sunset for Durbanville’s Sauvignon Blanc reputation?

  1. I enjoyed this. First up, I am not a big SB fan, and this stems from having to put up with green Durbanville SB for years. If I have to drink the stuff, I try and avoid drinking 2010 vintage Durbanville Sauvignon Blanc as I feel that like with most wines they are better given a bit of time. I am one of those people who dislike Durbanville SB for exactly the reason you seem to have liked them in the past – ie the green flavours and racy acidity. In the past they were so severely green and acidic that I was guaranteed heartburn when I’ve had a glass or 2. (always exceptions of course, I am a huge De Grendel fan).

    It is interesting to hear that they’ve moved away from what they are known for. I agree with you that there’s no point in promoting yourself as one thing, and then moving away from it. I for one won’t miss the green stuff, but if I HAVE to drink Sauvignon, I’ll still rather go for another region.

  2. Had a Flagstone Free Run 2006 (Elim fruit) on Saturday – NOM-NOM!
    I strongly disagree with wine tasting panels being briefed in this manner before tastings. It makes for an adulterated result. If the judges are worth their salt they should be able to find good wines across a variety of styles.

  3. Just to come up for Durbanville.
    I think it is very unfair to compare 2010 to 2009,seeing that 2009 was an extremely good year.
    We are not trying to move away from our ‘normal’ SB flavours but we cant make the grapes grow the flavours we want,we cant tell the weather what to do,nor tell the rain when to fall and not.
    There is loads of possible reasons why 2010 is so much different but i can defn say from my side that i did not try to get the wine more fruity.
    Fact is every year we hope for the best…thats it all we can do is hope!!!!!!
    I hope that next year we will have our green flavours back!!!!

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