The Sweet Bird of Sauvignon Blanc’s Youth

Despite the torrent time the wine industry is having in focussing on anything but that virus-thing, prospects on the merits of Vintage 2020 have been dropping into the e-mail in-box with the frequency of whats-app Corona funnies during the onset of the daily drinking hour. Few wineries have, however, been able to offer a tangible showing of what 2020 looks like, Diemersdal Estate from Durbanville being one of the few. Its Sauvignon Blanc 2020 was released to market two weeks ago, and if the quality of this wine is anything to go by, this year is going to be a stunner.

From the onset of the growing season in August last year, the Cape winelands have had everything but the kitchen sink and a Corona vaccination thrown at them. There was the champagne spring weather, consistently mild and devoid of those brow-wiping odd 30°C-plus days that often arrive in September and October to create panic, insecurity and hysteria among the gently budding vines. Rain around the third week in December, bringing freshness and further cool. January was bright and warm, with dollops of rain… buckets, in Hemel-en-Aarde, Robertson and the Breede River.

And then the heat came to nicely dry and ripen things.

Pouring the first Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc 2020 earlier this week, the first thing hitting me was the extraordinary complexity of such a young wine, which might be laughed-off for its audaciously early foray into the market. The nose is loud and boisterous, with knock-out aromas of cut grass, pulped loquat and green herbs. On the palate, however, a more adult and contemplative profile appears, one which is about as classic Sauvignon Blanc as a boater-hat is to an Oxford punting boat. Think Sauvignon Blanc, and this wine ticks all the expected flavour profiles: gooseberry, Kiwi fruit, sweet meadow grass and lime-peel. Only the slight stony-salt whisper places the Diemersdal slightly outside the conventional frame.

Having aroma and taste is one thing, but it is the level of drinking experience offered by the wine that brings me to raise another glass. Here the Sauvignon Blanc is fine and polished, not a hint of the sweaty-armpit character that tends to stick to prematurely released white wines. The delightful taste is elevated by a rapier-like thrust of acidity, ensuring the wine has an alert presence and reverberates with excitement. The finish is long, leanly muscled and very fresh. Excellent prospects for a superb year.

This is, however, not to discount the 2019 Sauvignon Blancs doing the rounds. De Wet Viljoen, cellar master at Neethlingshof Estate in Stellenbosch predicted a great year for Sauvignon Blanc. And the Neethlingshof 2019 is following the commands of its creator, winning a gold at this year’s Concours de Sauvignon.

Revisiting the wine, and it has over the past year grown in stature, piling on a few cloaks it refrained from showing in its ignorant youth. It is a maritime wine, what with the vines facing the southerly wind from False Bay. Bone-dry, the wine has a subdued oyster-shell kelp-like presence harnessed by a broken-rock, granitic array of tastes. Fruit-wise, the green has given way to more tropical nuances such as under-ripe mango skin, granadilla and cut white Chinese peach. The texture is delightful, bursting through the palate and leaving a memorable grip of tartness offset by experiences of wax and cave-drawn spring water. Beautifully balanced, thoroughly enjoyable and another reminder that Sauvignon Blanc is a great South African variety set to make a true mark on the local and international landscape.

 

 

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