Sauvignon Blanc Bores to Beers

Like a half-sloshed blonde in a Long Street pool bar, Sauvignon Blanc is just too easy. Its splash of acidity, length of green fruit refreshment and penchant for immediate satisfaction has you on your back in no time.

And oh yes, it is fun the first couple of times, but then it becomes oh-so predictable and unchallenging. The result is the dreaded dead palate where varieties are so,one-dimensional and boring that each Sauvignon Blanc starts tasting just like the previous one. That is why it is South Africa’s most popular white wine, because the public generally have stupid, uneducated palates. And of course, wine makers love it as it is an easy, unchallenging grape to contend with despite the bullshit arguments of Sauvignon Blanc only able to grow in climates bracing ocean breezes abound and where polar bears get brain freezes.

The ease of making a Sauvignon Blanc acceptable to the local throat was illustrated to me a while back at De Grendel where Charles Hopkins held a tasting for the brands wine club. Tasted blind, a Du Toitskloof Sauvie of under R30 came out as the evening’s best wine, nailing some big ticket contenders, including Steenberg’s Magna Carta.

But hang on, this is apparently changing. South African winemakers have been talking of an oversupply of Sauvignon Blanc at the moment, not being able to give the stuff away.

But before Pieter de Waal and his Sauvignon Crusaders get a pyrazine attack, let’s admit that when it hits the spot, Sauvignon Blanc does produce a good drop.

The other day at Savruga, one of the Waterfront’s trendoid lunch spots, the draught beer was not available, so a bunch of us settled on the next best thing to draught, namely a bottle of cheapish Sauvignon Blanc.

It turned out to be the Sterhuis Sauvignon Blanc 2009, from Stellenbosch a region where good Sauvignon Blanc is not supposed to be made according to the Cool Climate Crowd.

Well, with a plate of sushi, a view over the harbour and with two Scandinavian Koeksisters giving each other a going over at the table next to ours, the Sauvignon Blanc went down a treat.

The nose was filled with smacked granite stone, freshly squeezed courgettes and buttercups. Going down the hatch the wine entered lean and tight, yet grew to a fruit explosion on the mid-palate, a characteristic of grapes grown on perfectly balanced acid-to-pH soils. The wine gushed gooseberry, green pineapple and winter melon, and it tasted so nice and wet a glass was sent over to the Scandinavians.

Yes, very nice indeed the wine was. But ordering the next bottle, the old Sauvignon Blanc genes took over and each sip started tasting the same, interest waning, the wine unable to keep the palate interested as a Chardonnay or Riesling could.

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7 thoughts on “Sauvignon Blanc Bores to Beers

  1. Couldn’t agree more with your sentiments re Sauvignon Blanc. It’s one dimensional and a little bit boring. It has it’s place, but if I have the option of choosing between a Sauvignon Blanc or a wooded Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc or Bordeaux white blend then Sauvignon will always be my last choice. If I want that acid hit for refreshment’s sake… then it will be MCC or Champagne.

    On Sterhuis – they make a remarkable white blend called the Astra White. A third each blend of Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Chenin. I am amazed that it doesn’t have a higher profile, as it is one of the best white blends I’ve tasted from South Africa. It’s just a tad pricey.

  2. Thanks Baton man, and I’ll look out for Astra. Love Sterhuis wines in general. If you can organize a table at French Toast I’ll bring a bottle.

  3. What I will add is: I agree 100%. There are too many one trick pony Sauvies around, I am really starting to enjoy some great Chenins. Sterhuis is under the radar, and Johan Kruger is a smart fellow, and great to listen to. Came across a 2008 Sterhuis Sauvi at my local bottle store, was marked down, you know Sauvi doesn’t last more than a year…. R28 per bottle I bought a case. Lovely stuff.

    Batonage I hope you werent one of those punters who favoured the Du Toits Kloof over your beloved Magna Carta!


  4. Hi Emile.

    Your argument reminds me of something Yogi Berra said on why he wouldn’t go to a specific restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

    South African Sauvignon Blanc offers a wide range of flavours and styles and, fortunately, consumers (those people you accuse of having “stupid, uneducated palates”) are willing to fork out good money for the refreshment and satisfaction that South African Sauvignon Blanc wines offer.

    In the same way as I wouldn’t order the same dish as starter and main course in a restaurant, I believe consumers know where and when Sauvignon Blanc will do the trick, and when they may be looking for something “different”.

    That said, there are people making some wonderfully “different” Sauvignon Blanc wines as well, and names that spring to mind immediately, to just name a few, are: Reyneke, Jordan, Waterkloof, Boschendal, Diemersdal, Quoin Rock and Chamonix.

    Sauvignon Blanc as a variety has so much scope for further experimentation and success, and I believe that South Africa offers the most wonderfully diverse range of Sauvignon Blanc wines in the world.

    We need not stand back for any other country when it comes to producing great quality and good value Sauvignon Blanc. Viva South African Sauvignon Blanc, Viva!

  5. Pieter, if I were a real one-eyed anti-SB-person I would not have dropped R400 bucks on two bottles. I feel we just need more out-of-the-box examples, such as Sterhuis, Reyneke. If I were a SB promoter, however, I would be aware of the boredom-factor slowly creeping in among consumers, as well as the oversupply in juice. Where I agree with you is that Sauvignon Blanc as a variety is a very sexy brand with which to venture on international crusades, but there is also a gatvol factor creeping in as consumers look for aromatics.

  6. We also need less tastes-like-pasteurised-goatspiss examples; which is what too many of these R80+/bottle samples end up like. Personally I prefer my SB’s blended- the 2007 Nico van der Merwe Sauvignon-Semillion blend is drinking better than many a white Bordeaux currently- and at R45 per bottle!

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