There’s still a bit of summer in the air and there’s nothing quite like a chilled glass of vino to knock back. Our wine writer Greg Landman has found the best Sauvignon Blancs in South Africa to help make your decision a little easier.
Sauvignon Blanc covers about 10% of the vineyard area in South Africa, making it the second most popular white varietal. The words “crisp, dry and refreshing” are usually used to describe the flavours of the grape, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be so dry that it strips the palate off you. Search out the ones that suit your taste and you will find, especially in the scorching summers, that it goes very well with things like fish, chicken, and, of course, sushi – a match made in heaven. I can also recommend a salad with goats’ cheese, with its unique sharp flavour, makes for a delicious pairing.
Did you miss Greg’s Chenin Blancs? Find them over here.
What’s there to know about Sauvignon Blanc?
Originating in the Bordeaux area of France, it gets its name from the French words for “wild” and “white” probably because it was indigenous. Today it is grown all over the world with varying degrees of success, some of the best coming from New Zealand, France, Australia and South Africa. The grape needs cool growing conditions and therefore Durbanville, where the breezes of the nearby chilly Atlantic keep things on an even keel. The West Coast, Elgin, parts of Walker Bay, and Stellenbosch are all well placed to produce quality Sauvignon. As you will notice these wines should be drunk young as prolonged cellaring will not help them get better.
But enough of that. Let’s top up our glasses and get into the important stuff.
20 of the Best Sauvignon Blanc in South Africa
DMZ Sauvignon Blanc 2017
This is another treasure from the Appelbaum’s eyrie in the sky where master winemaker Carl van der Merwe weaves his magic. Plenty of lees contact gives it richness, while the citrus and granadilla on the nose add gorgeous tang to the well-controlled acids and all that fruit is irresistible. Heavily awarded all over the place, this bottle will make a great addition to a pork roast. Find it at R123 a bottle from the cellar.
Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2018
This venerable Durbanville estate offers no fewer than seven different Sauvignons ranging from this superb wine – an intense and complex vintage with some smoky nuances lurking – to the luscious and tangy Noble Late Harvest. Talented young winemaker, Thys Louw, is the sixth generation in his family to make wine here and he has a son waiting to take over the reins. A bottle goes for R110 from the cellar.
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Steenberg Rattlesnake Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Fermented and aged in large French oak barrels, stainless steel and egg shaped concrete containers, this is obviously a serious wine for serious drinkers. For those who feel intimidated by this notion, don’t let you put this off. It is delicious, vibrant and fresh with lingering complexity, and plenty of zing to make it all work delightfully. If you’re the collecting type, you can save it for up to seven years. I wouldn’t. Who has the time to wait so long to have some fun? Pick up a bottle for R151.
Steenberg The Black Swan Sauvignon Blanc 2018
A blend of the fruit from the top two Sauvignon vineyards at Steenberg, this is a standout example of what can be done with the very best fruit, taking great care of how it is used and not interfering too much with Mother Nature. Its mouthwatering succulence and no wood make every sip clean and delicious. At R212, this is another one that can be cellared for a long time, but why would you?
Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Celebrating their 26th vintage, Mulderbosch have created this ripe-styled wine which is packed with tropical fruit flavours, all beautifully supported by some wood – which a quarter of the blend was matured. Rich and with some ripe fig notes, this is just the thing to knock back poolside before winter gets here. A bottle goes for R108 from the cellar.
Groote Post Seasalter Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Way up the West Coast where the cooling Atlantic breezes keep things from getting too ripe in the fierce summer heat, historic Groote Post has long been the home of some impressive Sauvignon Blancs. Long standing wine magician Lukas Wentzel has once again shown he knows a thing or two. The Seasalter has a splash of Semillon added to the Sauvignon, 50% of which was matured in French oak barrels for eight months. The result is a knockout wine, full of fruit and gorgeously complex. It’s intense and elegant with some typical Darling minerality and can be found at R145 a bottle from the cellar.
Groot Phesantekraal Sauvignon Blanc 2018
This is the first one made for Phesantekraal by Etienne Louw (Altydgedacht) so it’s no surprise that it is delicious and very worthy to bear the Groot Phesantekraal name. There’s plenty of citrus flavours, tropical fruit – even a grape or three in there – and hass well-controlled acids underlying all that lusciousness. Pair it with a healthy serving of fish and chips. It won’t break the bank at R80 a bottle.
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Reyneke Organic Biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc 2018
With natural fermentation in third fill and older French barrels, this vintage spends six months on the gross lees and still remains vibrant and alive. It’s frisky and ready to go with full of refreshing citrus notes, while remaining complex and appealing with a lovely long finish. It’s perfect on its own and I don’t recommend sharing. Find it for R190 from Cybercellar.
Allée Bleue Sauvignon Blanc 2018
It’s silky smooth, tank fermented and there’s not a trace of wood anywhere. It’s a gorgeous light colour and is packed with fruit on the nose and palate. Winemaker Van Zyl du Toit has added a dash of Semillon to smooth things out. Pick it up for R86 a bottle from the cellar.
Kleine Zalze Sauvignon Blanc Vineyard Selection 2017
With 24 hours skin contact and three months on the primary lees, the result is really something special. Kleine Zalze have created something that comes across as very aromatic with hints of blackcurrant strangely enough. It’s intense and fruity, and very quaffable. I suggest you let it accompany your fish or sushi lunch. Find it for just R101 a bottle from Cybercellar.
Van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc 2018
There is no doubt that Van Loveren is one of SA’s most popular wines from those charming people on the Robertson Wine Route – the Garden of Eden for wine lovers. Van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc is nice and dry but with plenty of fruit to keep it all going and well-controlled acids. Add this highly praised wine – both here and abroad – when you next serve roast chicken. It’s a real purse pleaser at R58 a bottle.
Van Loveren Christina Sauvignon Blanc 2018
It’s a single vineyard knockout that’s intense with typical herbaceous nuances on the nose and has a great long finish. It has deservingly been awarded 4 and a half stars in the Platter guide and is best enjoyed on its own during a scorching hot day. Find it for R111 a bottle.
Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Fresh and clean. Clear and bright (just like in The Sound of Music), this charmer from winemaker Andries Burger is full of those delicious Elgin flavours where the cool breezes slow down the ripening to a manageable level. A dash of Semillon, which was fermented in oak, adds to the complexity. A cracker for R110 a bottle.
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Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc 2017 by Waterkloof
From the spectacular setting which is Waterkloof in Somerset West, this gorgeous wine from winemaker Nadia Bernard shows delicious tang with a strong sense of gooseberries. It’s first fermented in old 600ℓ barrels, which slows the process down, before being allowed to lie on the lees a further six months. The result is an exceptional wine packed with flavour, a perfect addition to a night at their fabulous award-winning restaurant with its sweeping views of the Hottentots Holland Mountains. Pick up a bottle for R118 from the cellar.
TOKARA Sauvignon Blanc 2018
There’s plenty of crisp clean, fresh and green notes on the nose, like apple, melon and granadilla. It’s all very enticing and just the thing on a hot day poolside – makes you want to reach for another bottle. It’s a marvelous dinner partner for a plate of fried fish and chips. Find it for R90 a bottle from the cellar.
TOKARA Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2018
From Tokara’s Highlands farm at Elgin, this one shows clearly how one cannot expect grapes from different areas to act the same – impossible. Some wood used in the fermentation process also makes a considerable difference, resulting in a deeper, very satisfying wine experience. It’s very fresh with a lingering crisp finish that’s best as an aperitif. Enjoy a bottle for R140 from the cellar.
Balance Winemaker’s Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2018
A no nonsense every day quaffer which should be in every wine drinker’s home for those moments when you think – as Edith Wharton did – “We should be opening a bottle of wine”. Eminently drinkable, crisp with some minerality, this bottle goes perfectly with summer salads. And let’s not forget to make mention of the screw cap which makes it even easier to get your hands on the darn thing. It won’t hurt your budget at R62 a bottle.
Survivor Sauvignon Blanc 2018
The majority of the juice was fermented in steel tanks, while 40% of the juice underwent barrel fermentation in new oak barrels before being rolled every week to get the lees going. The blend of the two is great – a perfect balance where there’s not too much of one or the other. The flavor is most appealing, great on the nose and in the mouth. Be sure to open a bottle when you next order a goat’s cheese salad – it’s a match made in heaven. Grab a bottle for R120 from the cellar.
Mensa Sauvignon Blanc 2018
This range, from the Overhex people in Worcester, is targeted at women, and their friends, who love a good book with a glass of wine and a faithful hound at their feet. Novel idea. The wine itself is the perfect thing to sip while reading a good book and is helped even more by having a great cork from the Amorim people. This one allows you to twist and drink a glass and then recork with the greatest of ease ’til the next time you want one. No need to feel like you’re splurging at R75 a bottle from the cellar.
Glen Carlou The Curator’s Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2017
This delicious wine has been naturally fermented in a Nomblot clay egg (no really!) in a method that hearkens back to ancient times when wine was fermented in clay amphorae. The grapes were handpicked from vines that are only accessible by foot, so you can see a lot of trouble has gone into making it by winemaker Johnnie Calitz. The result is packed with fruit and shows some minerality and is full bodied with restrained acids. Only 1 360 bottles were produced making it very special. It fetches for R147 only at the winery.
Glen Carlou Sauvignon Blanc 2018
The grapes for this easy drinking wine come from Durbanville and the absence of wood gives rise to plenty of deliciously fresh tropical fruit flavours and a nice zing from low lying acids. It goes great with roast chicken and cream pastas. Find it for R86 a bottle from the cellar.
Boplaas Eerste Water Sauvignon Blanc 2018
The vineyards from which these grapes come are in the Groenfontein Valley outside Calitzdorp where the Nel family has been farming since 1880. Their dam on the way to Groenfontein is 100 years old this year so it is fitting that the God given water, which plays such an important role, is commemorated on the label. The wine itself is a mélange of tropical floral and fruit notes in the nose and on the palate making for delicious, easy drinking. Be sure to pair it with grilled kabeljou. You’ll find it for R82 a bottle from the cellar.
Boplaas Bobbejaanberg Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Named after the troop of marauding baboons that yearly decimate the meagre pickings from these vineyards in the shadow of the Outeniqua Mountains, far from any quaint French or Dutch influences, this wine is indeed hard won. It’s crisp and clean, aromatic and refreshing, with some fynbos lingering on the palate. Great with steamed mussels drenched in butter. Add it to your wine bucket for R116 a bottle.
Protea Sauvignon Blanc 2018
The prestigious Franschhoek cellar Anthonij Rupert is responsible for this nectar, which uses grapes from various coastal places including Darling and Paarl. These were all fermented separately and then given plenty of lees contact to build a full, well-rounded palate before being blended and bottled. It makes for easy drinking with plenty of citrus and stone fruit apparent and quiet acids supporting the fruit. It is the perfect food wine. Maybe chicken a la crème? And let’s not forget to admire the gorgeous bottle with that special cork from Amorim. It’s an absolute winner at R55 a bottle.
As the wine writer for Country Life magazine for the last 15 years, Greg has met and interviewed more than 150 of the country’s top wine makers. His articles offer unique insights into where to eat, what to drink, and where to go all over the Western Cape. With his dining companion Beryl Ormsby Browne, he has also reviewed more than 60 country restaurants for the magazine and has been a reviewer for the prestigious Eat Out Guide for 12 years. His passion for everything the winelands has to offer has led him into the world of wine tours. To find out more, visit his website Magic Grape Tours.