WINE Constantia’s Sauvignon Blanc fest

I was remarking to a friend the other day that Cape Town hasn’t had its usual sweltering wind-free February weather. But after a few recent scorchers in the CBD had me clamouring for a fan on full blast, or heading for the nearest air-conditioned shopping centre, dsc_001.jpg I decided the weather was merely doing the Capetonian thing: arriving fashionably late.

The ‘Constantia Fresh’ Sauvignon Blanc Festival afternoon held on the lovely leafy Buitenverwachting lawns over the last weekend of February was one of those scorchers. Billed as a food and wine tasting, around 30 wine producers poured their current and older vintages of Sauvignon at tables dotted around. A few wines from France and New Zealand were added to the local line-up.

Six Cape fine dining restaurants were part of the line-up (unsurprisingly including four Constantia venues). The event had just the right numbers with people wandering from table to table at leisure, even if the food element was rather hit and miss. Buitenverwachting and Grande Roche chefs served snacks from wine tables, but tracking edibles from other restaurants depended on your skill at nabbing a passing waiter. Even with success, few waiters were able to identify the dish or the restaurant.

Nevertheless it was a lovely sociable afternoon that showed off Constantia’s natural scenery and some lovely wines too. While many people enjoyed line-ups of older vintages offered by some local wineries, I thought the newer Sauvignons were too smart to ignore.
Wines that stood out:
Delaire 2009: Lovely Stellenbosch fruit shines brightly in an opulent style, exactly what I’m looking for in a chilled glass when I don’t want to think very hard. Yum yum.

Tokara Walker Bay 2008: very mineral and austere. It seems way too young to be taste-testing but there’s good stuff to come. I’d like to try it again in six months time.

Thelema Sutherland 2009: Gorgeously flinty mineral notes from their Elgin vineyards. It’s an earlier vintage than the Tokara sourced from a neighbouring wine area, yet the fruit is so much more expressive now.

Newton Johnson Resonance 2008: Their Sauvignon Blanc 2009 offers vibrant grapefruit freshness, but the Resonance 2008 will appeal to those who like a little more oomph in a glass. Fruit is sourced from one vineyard near the NJ Hemel-en-Aarde cellar, plus some Elgin grapes. Gordie Johnson added 20% of naturally-fermented Semillon to round it out. It’s a lovely drink, a combo of fresh mineral notes with oily complexity from the Semillon. dsc_005.jpg

Korus Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2007: Tasting four Kiwi Sauvignons on display, I was nearly bowled over by the sensation of gooseberries - way too much for comfort. The Korus showed gooseberry flavours too, but I enjoyed it because South African winemaker Jasper Raats’ winemaking also delivers depth and complexity in the glass. Good effort.

Oak Valley 2007 and 2009: This Elgin farm makes a stunning range of whites, and Sauvignon Blanc is no exception. Tasting an older 2007 vintage was a treat. This wine is lovely, showing a slightly tropical fruit intensity without a hint of bottle age. The 2009 is exactly what I want to be sipping now in Sauvignon: fresh chalky hints with crisp green apples. Delicious stuff.

Interesting that the wines I highlighted here are mostly from less traditional areas such as Elgin and Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. There are plenty of good wines from Constantia, Durbanville, Stellenbosch and Darling too, each offering diversity and specific regional profiles. The thought I took away was how good our South African Sauvignon Blancs are. We used to lag behind New Zealand. No more.