Getting to Know Sauvignon Blanc

Words: Karen Glanfield


Wine Concepts LB 728 x 90 Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety which originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape gets its name from the French word sauvage (“wild”) and blanc (“white”) due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France.

Sauvignon Blanc is most commonly a crisp, dry, unwooded white wine. Whilst we may be most familiar with Sauvignon Blanc as a single variety wine, it is also used in blends with Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc, and, more frequently these days, with Semillon, known as White Bordeaux blends. Plantings increased dramatically in the 1990s making Sauvignon Blanc an exceptionally well-known wine locally.

I think one of the reasons Sauvignon Blanc is the largest white wine category in South Africa is because it is a wine which consumers can easily recognise.

Broadly speaking we have two types of Sauvignon Blanc produced locally

Cool Climate Sauvignon Blanc

The first is grown in cooler climate areas and shows more green – grassy, herbaceous, green pepper, asparagus, fig notes. The secret to these flavours come from a natural aromatic grape compound known as methoxy-pyrazine. The same compound is found in green bell peppers.

Warmer Climate Sauvignon Blanc

The second, from warmer growing regions, expresses more tropical notes such as guava, melon, granadilla and even mango. These aromas, so-called thiols, are created during fermentation. These natural volatile sulphur-compounds are responsible for all this yummy fruitiness.

In years gone by, there’s been much debate about whether greener (pyrazine-derived) flavours should prevail over tropical fruit (thiol-derived) flavours or vice versa whereas now the best wines tend to show evidence of both compounds, and are more multi-faceted as a consequence.

Sauvignon Blanc Food Pairings

In general, the high acidity of Sauvignon Blanc has the ability to make most foods shine, much as lemon complements many dishes. Acidity also balances out salty and cured foods. Sauvignon Blanc will make an ideal partner to goats cheese and tomato tartlets or grilled asparagus with lemon, olive oil and feta.

Other suggestions include ceviche, raw and lightly cooked shellfish like oysters and shell-on prawns; dishes that contain raw or barely cooked tomato such as gazpacho, tomato consommé or tomato vinaigrettes. Also enjoyed with Japanese dishes such as sushi and sashimi, seafood-based steamed and fried dim sum or seafood with south-east Asian flavours such as lime, chilli and coriander or Thai fish cakes.

3 facts you should know about Sauvignon Blanc

  •       Sauvignon Blanc is a global phenomenon: It’s the world’s 8th most planted wine grape.
  •       Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon.
  •       When fermented in stainless steel, Sauvignon Blanc is fresh, fruity and for early drinking. Oaked styles are more textured, less aromatic and can be aged.

South African Sauvignon Blancs

Darling Cellars Bush Vine Sauvignon Blanc 2018

The recent demarcation of the Darling district has led to a focus at Darling Cellars on wines which are terroir and varietal specific. The cool and temperate West Coast climate lends itself to a different micro- and mesoclimate which, along with the different types of soil, lead to unique grapes, which they guide into even more unique wines. Having 99% of all vineyards dry land and almost the same percentage as bush vine, this is as close to what nature intended for grapes to be as one can get. *WIN with Darling Cellars, scroll to the bottom of the post to enter.

WINEMAKERS Pieter-Niel Rossouw and Maggie Venter
WO Darling

Initially, a subdued bouquet opens up to aromas of tropical fruit such as watermelon skin, passion fruit and pineapple. These flavours follow on the palate and are supported by a vibrant acidity that keeps the palate fresh.

WE LOVE IT WITH  West Coast Mussels with Apples & Cider

Elgin Ridge 282 Sauvignon Blanc 2016

The 282 Elgin Ridge biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc 2016 was made using natural fermentation and 12% of the wine was aged in a concrete egg for 9 months before bottling. The only ingredient added is a naturally mined clay to clarify the wine and just enough sulphur to keep the wine fresh. This ‘more natural’ approach to winemaking and farming ensures they make wines that are truly expressive of the vintage and of the Elgin where the grapes are grown.

WINEMAKER Kosie van Der Merwe
WO Elgin
TASTING NOTES On the nose: Upfront ripe pineapple, sweet pear and blackcurrant. On the palate, candied citrus, pear, sweet melon, lime undertone with a rich and textured finish and well-integrated acid.
WE LOVE IT WITH Yellowtail Ceviche with Lime Dressing
RSP R140

Cape Point Vineyards Noordhoek Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Grapes for this wine are hand-selected from vineyards on sea-facing slopes where they enjoy fresh breezes and picturesque views. The grapes were harvested between 22°B and 23°B in the early hours of the morning and were all hand-picked. This wine recently won the following awards: Gold Medal Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show 2018, Gold Medal International Wine & Spirits Competition 2018 and was awarded 93 Points in the Tim Atkin SA Special Report 2017.

WINEMAKER Riandri Visser
WO Noordhoek

The wine is layered with a combination of Cape gooseberries, white grapefruit and a hint of fynbos. The rich and textured palate is focused with a steely minerality and fresh and vibrant acidity

WE LOVE IT WITH Chargrilled Onion, Pea and Asparagus Salad
RSP R150

Lanzerac Premium Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Lanzerac Wine Estate, home to the world’s first bottled Pinotage and one of the oldest heritage farms in the Western Cape dating back to 1692, has been cultivating award-winning wines for decades. Nestled in the Jonkershoek Valley between the majestic Stellenbosch mountains, this historic Estate’s rich winemaking history can be traced back to the early 1900s, when the first Lanzerac wine was bottled from grapes harvested on the farm. Since then, Lanzerac Wine Estate has cemented itself as a distinguished wine producer with a commitment to superior quality wines both internationally and locally.

WINEMAKER Wynand Lategan
WO Stellenbosch
TASTING NOTES Generous aromas of green fruit like Granny Smith apples interplay with white fruits such as Asian pears and white peaches in a perfect fruit-acid balance. It introduces a fresh lemongrass mouthfeel with subtle minerality rounded of­ by a soft creaminess in the long finish due to extended lees contact.
WE LOVE IT WITH Sesame Crusted Salmon with Shaved Fennel
RSP R95 (Cellar Door)

Van Loveren Almost Zero Wonderful White

If you’re looking for a delicious everyday drink with virtually no alcohol and lower in kilojoules, you’ve found it. Almost Zero is a crisp and tasty Sauvignon Blanc, with less than 0.5% alcohol – the same as the alcohol-free beers on the market. Better yet, it has 75% less kilojoules than a normal glass of wine. Now, you can enjoy a glass of vino, literally to your heart’s content and without the worry. Almost Zero is definitely the healthier summer option.

WINEMAKER Danelle Conradie
WO Robertson Valley
TASTING NOTES On the palate, Almost Zero’s bracing kiss reveals flavours of apple, litchi and a little citrus and will be a highlight enjoyed by itself on a hot day or alongside any summer fare like seafood and salads. Almost Zero is always at its best when served chilled.
WE LOVE IT WITH Mint, Lemon & Olive Oil Marinated Zucchini Salad

Newton Johnson Resonance 2017

Resonance is predominantly sourced from Newton Johnson’s single Sauvignon Blanc vineyard, cultivated in quartz and sandstone soil. Texture is of prime importance in their white wines, and Semillon fermented in new oak barrels provided us with a component that forms the broader framework of the blend. This is a wine where the winemakers get to play with Sauvignon Blanc, pushing the boundaries of the conventional style. The intention is to produce a wine that is pure, looking past fruit expression for complexity.

WINEMAKERS Gordon and Nadia Newton Johnson
WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Vivid expression enveloped in a wealth of opulent aromas and flavours. Striking scents of lemony Cape May confetti bush, white asparagus, and Cape gooseberry; broadened with rich nougat and the warmth of chamomile. Luxuriant texture with mealy/chalky grip and a dollop of fruit sweetness is held by the clean acidity.

WE LOVE IT WITH Vanilla Key Lime Tartlets
RSP R182

La Motte The Pierneef Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2017

This wine forms part of the ultra-premium range which is a tribute to South African artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886 – 1957), famous for his mastery in portraying the unadorned beauty of the South African landscape and its architecture. Each new release in the range reflects a different piece of Pierneef art on its label.


Edmund Terblanche

WO Cape South Coast

The wine is thiol-driven, with specifically citrus flavours, as well as green pepper and gooseberry flavours lingering in the background. The palate is exceptionally elegant, with a mineral finish. This wine will be at its optimum best in 2018.

WE LOVE IT WITH Citrus and Fennel Cured Franschhoek Trout
RSP  R127

Nitida Golden Orb

Durbanville is considered to be home to some of South Africa’s best Sauvignon Blanc sites due to the high clay content of the soils. The strong South Westerly winds during November serve to naturally thin the crops, ensuring greater concentration of flavour and fruit expression. Intermitted rainfall helps to limit water stress and ensure optimal ripening. With such beneficial growing conditions, coupled with their unique and minimalistic approach to winemaking, the Golden Orb is a true expression of the remarkable Durbanville terroir.

WINEMAKER Daniel Keulder
WO Durbanville

Showy, mouth-filling rather grandiose example of this vintage. Consistent crunchy yellow cling peach tones set the stage. Interjections of chopped green coriander, celery stalks and showy lime citrus flaunt taut freshness. Splashes of green asparagus, ripe litchi and granadilla pulp appear as more mellow players.


Salmon with Fresh Granadilla

RSP R300

Increase your wine knowledge and get to know  Red and White Blends | Shiraz | Chardonnay | Chenin Blanc | Cabernet Sauvignon | Merlot Pinotage | Rosé

Wine Concepts LB 728 x 90


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