I can be a bit of a snob when it comes to wine labels. Generally if a wine label has got a picture of an animal on it I tend to steer clear.
“Never judge a book by its cover”, I hear you say, but in my limited experience of tasting and drinking wines that have kangaroos, ostriches and cockerels (note I’ve excluded whales) festooned on the label I’ve learned the hard way.
Generally this shows that more effort has been put into the outside of the bottle (marketing it) than what’s been put inside the bottle – not a good sign for any wine. Of course a label is important – it tells you a range of information about what’s in the bottle such as country, region, varietal, vintage, alcohol content and more without which we wouldn’t be able to make an informed decision. But if its got a big picture of Mickey Mouse in the middle of it this tends to override the other information and will inevitably result in you forming an impression (probably unfavourable unless you are a Walt Disney nut) regardless.
So a certain amount of hypocrisy is allowed as poetic license and – as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now – this wine has a huge great whale on its label. Indeed the name, Southern Right, is a bit of a giveaway as this is a species of whale that frequents the South African coast in winter time and can readily be seen from the shore on a daily basis. The old fishing village of Hermanus in Walker Bay is generally considered to be the best place to see them from behind which is the Hemel-en-Arde Valley (Heaven and Earth Valley) where the wine comes from.
Southern Right are a Pinotage and Sauvignon Blanc specialist taking advantage of the cooler micro-climate found in this part of the country allied to soils in which the vines thrive. In the case of Sauvignon Blanc this tends to be lighter, free-draining Table Mountain sandstone soil that imparts a slightly minerally-fresh undertone to the wine. Formed as a joint venture in 1994 by some heavyweight winemakers of the region – Anthony Hamilton Russell being one – the vineyards are just 2km from the South Atlantic ocean which acts as a giant radiator and as a result are markedly different to the other, hotter wine growing areas in the country. This is one of the new up-and-coming areas for South African wine and where a lot of cooler climate varietals, particularly whites, are being grown with a lot of success.
This wine is full of the gooseberry and tropical fruit you’d expect of Sauvignon Blanc and is pale and bright in the glass with a tinge of greeny-yellow. On the palate it is fresh and full of acidic cleanliness, aromatic and dry with a restrained and elegant minerally grip in the finish. It needs to be drunk chilled but not too chilled – between 6 and 8 degrees celsius is fine – so the wine can open up fully and the delicate flavours are not masked.
As the wine is very delicate in flavour it will complement food that is also not too robust – good food pairings are shellfish, particularly oysters, white line fish and salads. It will also go very nicely with creamy and soft flavoured cheeses such as brie.
Available at the time of publication from Waitrose for £ 10.44 per bottle.
Admittedly not my favourite Sauvignon Blanc, it’s still good enough for 85 out of 100.