South African winemakers have been desperately trying to catch up with New Zealand when it comes to sauvignon blanc. In the UK in particular Kiwi sauvignon blanc is held in very high regard and who hasn’t been to a summer barbecue where at least one bottle of the stuff gets dished up? Part of the problem in South Africa was the dominance of the chenin blanc grape for so many years due to the fact that it was used to make wine, brandy and a whole host of other products. The wines it made however, were never going to be great and South African winemakers soon realised after coming out from isolation in the early 90’s that if they were to take advantage of the massive export markets now open to them , they had to produce wines that the rest of the world wanted that could compete on a quality and pricing level with what the rest of the world could already get, including the Cloudy Bay’s. That meant the learning curve was going to be steep and the ride was going to be wild but doing nothing was not an option as then economic decline would be inevitable.
One producer not afraid to take up the challenge was Graham Beck, one of the more recently established names in South African wine, having been founded in 1983. The vision back then was to create a winery that produced several world-class wines and initially the first cellar was created in Robertson with an additional one following in Franschhoek some years later. The grapes are grown on 4 farms each with their own individual characteristics – one in Franschhoek, two in Stellenbosch and one in Robertson. An extensive renewal programme has resulted in the replanting of premier red and white varietals, including sauvignon blanc, on all the farms in recent years.
This sauvignon blanc is a great step in the right direction. While not quite as refined as some wines made of the same variety, it shows all the typical characteristics of what you’d expect but retains enough of its own character to keep you wanting more. Pale straw-yellow in colour with a hint of green-ness, the wine is typically grassy on the nose with a touch of citrus zest and perfume. On the palate it is incredibly fresh and sharp with green fig and gooseberry notes followed by tangy, juicy tropical fruits. Great as an aperitif it goes well with fresh summer salads, simple pasta and pesto dishes and delicately flavoured seafood dishes but is excellent with parma ham and melon.
Available from winedirect.co.uk for £ 7.95 a bottle.
Marks out of 100 – 80