South Africa Takes-on Mighty New Zealand in First Sauvignon Blanc Wine Test

Wine history will be made next week when South Africa and New Zealand square-up in the first Southern Sauvignon Blanc Encounter in Cape Town which sees the two countries’ best Sauvignon Blanc wines being judged to determine which nation can claim to be the king of this universally popular white grape.

This inaugural wine contest also aims to celebrate the intense, yet sporty, rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand who this year celebrate 100 years of Test Match Rugby, a contest that began in 1921 when the All Blacks and the Springboks first met in Dunedin in New Zealand. Like their shared passion for rugby, South Africa and New Zealand have a proud history of winemaking with both countries being leading producers of Sauvignon Blanc, the world’s most popular white wine variety.

Erica Crawford from Loveblock Wines in New Zealand.

And on 22 September a panel of wine experts will decide which of the two make the best Sauvignon Blanc when 10 wines from South Africa face 10 wines from New Zealand on the Diemersdal Estate in Durbanville, Cape Town. The competition was conceptualised by New Zealand wine producer Erica Crawford, founding partner of the Kim Crawford wine brand and currently owner of Loveblock Wines, and Emile Joubert, a communications consultant to the South African wine industry.

According to Crawford, the competition aims to celebrate the strong sporting and cultural links between the two countries, look at the style of wine coming from the two countries, and to have a bit of fun.

“With 268m litres of Sauvignon Blanc produced in New Zealand in 2021, South Africa makes about a third of the volume of Sauvignon that we do,” says Crawford. “But what it lacks in size of production, the Cape for sure makes up in quality. Having regularly been exposed to South African Sauvignon Blancs, there is no question that some of the best wines from this variety are made over there. The winemakers are smart and innovative, and the Cape has a diversity of terroir that comes to the fore in the wines. It is going to be really interesting to see how ten of the best Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand matches up to what South Africa is currently doing.”

Joubert says that when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc and a wine country in general, New Zealand’s story is miraculous. “Until the 1980s nobody had heard of New Zealand as a wine producer – rugby and sheep were the dominant associations,” he says. “Today New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most well-known categories across the world and rules the category in terms of the value it has created for that country, both economically and in terms of image and reputation as a wine nation. South Africa’s wine legacy might be much older than that of New Zealand, but in terms of profile and commercial success, the Kiwis currently lead the way.”

Emile Joubert

All wines judged will be from the 2020 vintage, and the panel of judges is led by Winnie Bowman, Cape Wine Master and a well-known South African and international wine judge.

“I am really looking forward to this match-up between two great winemaking countries,” says Bowman. “Both nations have played a role in establishing New World Sauvignon Blanc as an internationally successful wine category due to the delicious profile of the wines made from this variety. For any country making Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand is a real force to be reckoned with. They have made the category their own. However, South African Sauvignon Blanc has a quality proposition of its own. Obviously, we judges do not know any of the wines the respective selectors have put into the line-up, but quality-wise, both New Zealand and South Africa will be challenged.”

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