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Some thoughts on Sauvignon Blanc

white_lace2011_largeIMG_1582We dined last night at one of my current favourite restaurants, De Brasserie on Beach Road, Strand. The evening commenced on the terrace, in the cooling evening air, overlooking False Bay and the setting sun.

No such experience would be complete without a glass of wine from which to sip, so after perusing the wine list, I settled on a bottle of Almenkerk 2013 Lace Sauvignon Blanc, suitably chilled. I’d have been more inclined to go for a Chenin Blanc, but I deferred to the company: dear wife Eppie, Bolander editor and friend Carolyn Frost, and fellow journo and friend Andrea Powell, all have a preference for Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am less than enamoured of Sauvignon Blanc, although in the last two to three years, the rapier-like acidity and one dimensional fruit profile – green – of so many of these wines has shifted remarkably, so I was intrigued to see what the Almenkerk Lace had to offer.

We’re more and more seeing Sauvignon Blanc of elegance and finesse, with complex, pure fruit that renders green, white and even mildly tropical notes. Shift in response to consumer demand? I’d like to think so, but be that as it may, I’m drinking Sauvignon Blanc far more willingly now than I’ve done in the past, and my experience last night – because The Almenkerk Lace is one of these far more elegant, complex and fruit pure wines – has brought me to the point where I might actually admit to liking Sauvignon Blanc as a varietal. It’s cool climate origins are evident in it’s mineral core, steely dryness, and lingering intensity, and it is a fine example of what is being crafted in the Elgin Valley.

After a splendid meal – I had my regulation sirloin steak, Eppie had the Norwegian Salmon special, Carolyn the chicken Satay skewers with a peanut sauce, and Andrea had the Thai beef salad – served by a warm, attentive staff, we lingered for a short while before splitting up and heading home.

Since it was an early dinner engagement, we arrived home just before nine o’clock, and I had the urge to drink another glass or two of wine. I’ve had a bottle of the Shannon Vineyards 2104 Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge for the last few days, and was planning to open it quite soon, but the temptation to compare what I’d just drunk with this wine from the same valley, was overwhelming. And what a good decision it was.

What struck me immediately was just how pale the Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc is, paler even than the Almenkerk Lace. The next kicker was the remarkable nose, redolent of lemon, lime and sherbet aromas, with a hint of minerality in the form of a whiff of flintiness.

The palate has a seamless mineral core, supported by steely dryness, and an intensity of complex fruit that ranges from elegant green, through white stone fruit to a delicate tropical edge. The fruit it bright and slightly sweet, but it is beautifully balanced by the steely dry acidity, and the finish just goes on forever.

The two wines are similar, but also different. Similar in that their origins are obvious, reflected in the commonality of elegance, underpinned  by a mineral core, complexity of fruit, and lingering intensity, and that is unsurprising since they’re grown on the opposite slopes of the Palmiet River Valley which wends its way through the Elgin Valley, on its way to the sea at Kleinmond.

But they differ in palate depth and breadth, the Almenkerk Lace lighter in palate weight, and more tropical in fruit expression, the Shannon Sanctuary Peak weightier in the palate with great intensity and white stone fruit and lemony sherbet fruit sweetness. I think I’m hooked. On both of them.

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Categories: Wine
  1. October 15, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    I must say, if I’m going to drink white, sauvignon blanc is not my first choice either. But, hints of citrus would have me trying it! Nice chatting yesterday 🙂

    • October 15, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      Lovely chatting to you too, Tandy. Get Dave to whisk you off to De Brasserie sometime soon, and quaff a glass or two on the deck. They’re open seven days a week now.

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