The wisdom of the Nederburg Auction inviting Washington wine blogger David White to open the auction last year, reveals itself in the most unexpected places. Such as the columns of The Advertiser News, a US community newspaper which is the only branch of the dead-tree media’s decaying empire that is showing growth. Community newspapers are probably the only hardcopy that will survive the digital revolution. Last week, I asked Distell CEO Jan Scannell “who is doing the honours this year?” and he replied “I don’t know.” Let’s hope it’s someone from the East, where a new dawn is breaking for SA wine. Sir David Tang would be perfect for the part.
Defending Sauvignon Blanc, David quotes one of two personal “aha” moments for the varietal which is something of a whipping boy in the USA. Rather like the role Pinotage reprises in the UK.
“My second ‘aha’ moment occurred at a seminar on the versatility of South African Sauvignon Blanc, hosted by Duncan Savage of Cape Point Vineyards, one of South Africa’s most well-known winemakers. We made it through wines from six producers, all from different parts of South Africa. Each wine had balance, complexity and freshness — and I would have confidently put any of them up against the finest Sauvignon Blancs in the world.”
Let’s hope David’s Damascus moment came as a pay-off for the R1 585 595 WOSA spent on a Mobile Master Class last year. An initiative roundly slammed by producers left out in the cold as “scandalously unfair marketing support to some of WOSA’s pets.” Although come to think of it, I remember David asking directions to Cape Point Vineyards the day after the Auction. So perhaps SA Sauvignon producers should be thanking Nederburg whose own Sauvignons are benchmarks.
But no matter who facilitated, David’s comments are a feather in the cap for SA SB, but before SBIG, the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group, puffs up like the bottom of a baboon in Brian Berkman’s stylish Pringle Bay holiday home (surely peacock’s tail?, ed.), David brings the SA expression down to earth with the observation “this isn’t to say that there isn’t an awful lot of terrible Sauvignon Blanc. Green wines don’t make it. In South Africa and France, where the best examples are marked by subtle aromatics, like chalk and white flowers, too many Sauvignon Blancs are excessively green. Sometimes, the wines smell like over-the-hill asparagus and seem thin and alcoholic on the palate.” Something judges at next month’s varietal tasting sponsored by FNB should guard against.
David’s final point is a killer: “Perhaps the best thing about Sauvignon Blanc is its price. Dozens of wonderful examples cost less than $15 per bottle.” But in SA the varietal is often seriously over-priced. When a leading Elgin producer can sell 30,000 litres of 2012 SB at under R12 a litre (or less than R9 a bottle) to another Elgin producer who retails his 2011 for R57, SA consumers should be excused for feeling squeezed tighter than a Sauvignon Blanc pip. Especially when the seller insists he is making a profit.
That said, Johan Wegner is selling Thys Louw’s excellently quaffable Sauvignon.com 2011 for R25 a bottle at Getwine, the place I buy my wine. And while perhaps not elegantly Elgin, it is certainly Durbanville deftig, which is good enough for this Sauvignon Blanc boetie.
I must take issue with your recommendation of Sir David Tang for the Nederburg role – unless, he is compelled to retract his anti-bowtie rant in last weekend’s FT column. For Sir David to have maligned and smeared all bowtie wearers in such an unfair and ill-considered fashion has lowered his worldwide standing and credibility. The only way for Sir David to ‘redress’ the balance, is to launch Nederburg 2012 attired in the neck wear he so haughtily and disparagingly dismissed. I know many hirsute and entirely masculine individuals who favour the horizontal over the vertical, in addition, the bowtie lends itself so well to fine dining and wine tasting. No need for Scotchgarding or clips, and with an altogether smaller carbon footprint, the bowtie is the perfect accessory for wine writers in the Rainbow Nation. Of course, it is entirely possible the distinguished author of this fine blog has been ‘tangoed’ : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1jywlZG74o
Please don’t see it as SBIG “puffing up” in any way whatsoever when I point out factual errors that you make in your blog postings.
The tasting that Duncan Savage presented was at Cape Wine Europe, held in London during October 2011 (i.e. it had nothing to do with the Nederburg Auction). It is a feather in Duncan’s cap for presenting this tasting and getting such a good response – as I said in my previous comment of 26 June (that you have deigned not to respond to) South African Sauvignon Blanc enjoys international respect and our winemakers are at the cutting edge of producing top quality Sauvignon Blanc.
David White’s very balanced and insightful article refers to the potential of Sauvignon Blanc, and basically wine made from any grape variety, to be made poorly in all parts of the world, whether it be France, New Zealand, California or South Africa.
As said before, constructive inputs are always appreciated. Maybe you can enlighten me as to how the pricing structure works of the Astronaut Pinotage made from grapes grown on dryland old bush-vines on your farm, and selling for €3.99 at Jumbo Supermarket in Portugal (your blog post of 6 May). How much are you selling the grapes for, and what is it costing you to run the vineyard? Are you managing to make a profit?
Are you implying that buying Sauvignon Blanc in bulk and bottling it to resell (your Elgin example of R12 per litre bulk becoming R57 per bottle retail) is any different to Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinotage, Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon? Why finger Sauvignon Blanc as supposedly being overpriced? Again, may I ask that you give examples of the wines that you find overpriced? My belief is that consumers are willing to pay for quality, and that the premium price that South African Sauvignon Blanc command is an indication that our producers are managing to make wines at all price points that satisfy consumer needs. Basic economics dictate that to survive as an industry it is essential that we be able to make and sell wine profitably.
Ps. Yes, Sauvignon.com 2011 is a lovely quaffing wine, but “Durbanville deftig” it ain’t! Have you looked at the back label for the Wine of Origin? Sorry for ******** up your eloquent alliteration!
Pieter de Waal
(in my private capacity)
Astronaut Pinotage is a bad example as I did not sell any grapes for it. I gave them to a friend.
The rest of your comment is equally “off message.”