Having been a customer of FNB for over 30 years, I feel well qualified to produce my own Top Ten Sauvignon Blancs list to rival that announced earlier today by a tasting under the auspices of FNB and the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group [SBIG]. I tasted blind almost the same number of wines as entered into the FNB Sauvignon Blanc Challenge with at least five important differences:
1) I tasted terroir wines (wines made exclusively from grapes grown within an appellation) blind and in situ, travelling from Vredendal to Walker Bay to Tulbagh in the process;
2) No producer paid to enter;
3) No sponsorship was received from FNB or indeed anyone. In fact my whole blind tasting of over 2000 wines for the upcoming Neil Pendock’s Winelands Guide 2012 cost me less than the wonga FNB slipped SBIG;
4) No “Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc pack” is being offered for sale (a commercial sideshow that throws question marks at the whole selection process);
5) Tastings were arranged and wines were sourced by the various wine routes.
Interestingly enough, my Top Ten and the bank’s Top Ten has not a single wine in common. My picks, listed alphabetically:
1) Chamonix Reserve 2010 from Franschhoek. Toasty oak, rich nose with floral buds, apricots on palate. R145 a bottle.
2) Diemersdal Matys 2012 from Durbanville. Fine and flinty nose, crushed marble, fresh and limey palate with tropical and citrus, also peach peel. Intense and clean. Creamy with good Atlantic acidity. Very food friendly. R40 a bottle.
3) Jordan “The Outlier” 2009 from Stellenbosch. Rich and ripe, grassy floral, dusty dried apricots and figs. R99 a bottle.
4) Klein Constantia Perdeblokke 2010 from Constantia. Floral, fine, limes and quince marmalade, late harvest aromas, soft palate, icy fresh.
5) Merwida 2012 from Breedekloof. Tropical fruit plus asparagus and green peas, sweat, tangy and persistent. R38 a bottle.
6) Oak Valley 2011 from Elgin. Grassy citrus with a lingering finish and a creamy palate. A Sauvignon Blanc for Catherine Deneuve. R90 a bottle.
7) Ormonde Ondine 2010 from Darling. Asparagus, tinned peas, citrus pulp and zest, creamy mouth feel, tangy, good food wine. R55 a bottle.
8) Sir Lambert 2012 from Namaqualand. Tangy ruby grapefruit with a finely judged balance between sweet and sour and huge length. R65 a bottle.
9) Spioenkop “1900” 2011 from Elgin. Fresh floral nose and spicy broad palate starring lemon pith and limes. Lovely and long. R62 a bottle.
10) Webersburg 2011 from Stellenbosch. Toasty floral, creamy, complex, long, a world class wine. R85 a bottle.
The bankster’s Top Ten:
. Clos Malverne 2011
· De Morgenzon DMZ 2012
· Diemersdal MM Louw 2011 (wooded)
· Driehoek 2012
· Du Toitskloof 2012
· Groote Post 2012
· Lomond Pincushion 2011
· Neethlingshof Single Vineyard 2012
· Simonsig Sunbird 2012
· Virgin Earth Pepper Tree 2012
Lovers of Sauvignon Blanc and customers of FNB can make up their own mind, although wine lovers of the Jewish religion may prefer the bankster selection as the press release notes “several esther-driven wines (very pretty but destined to be short-lived) performed well.”
Wikipedia tells us that Esther “was a Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus… Her story is the basis for the celebration of Purim in Jewish tradition.” On the other had, my list does mention the Jordan and two of my blind selection terroir wines retail at under R40 a bottle, which helps pay the bank charges.
A Top Ten of Chardonnays, Chenin Blancs, Pinotages, Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, Pinot Noirs and Shirazes will appear in guide, at no extra charge.
Thanks for sharing your excitement and enthusiasm for South African Sauvignon Blanc with your readers. It’s great to see that you managed to fall in love with Sauvignon Blanc again after the disastrous tasting you had at the Concours du Sauvignon competition in Bordeaux earlier this year when you commented on 23 June 2012 that: “SA Sauvignon is in danger of becoming a legend in its own lunchtime with overly acidic green wines turning off consumers and international judges alike, in droves.”
I agree that your list would be very different to the FNB Top 10 due to the fact that you chose to exclude a huge portion of South African Sauvignon Blanc by not tasting wines that were made from more than one appellation. For example, the De Morgenzon DMZ 2012 that you raved about in your post of 29 August 2012 (you called it “spectacular”) would automatically be disqualified. The Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group (SBIG) is about inclusivity, whereas it seems you do not deem wines made from more than one appellation worthy of Top 10 status.
My definition of “blind” tasting is also quite different to yours, it seems. For me a true “blind” tasting would be where the judges taste the entries without any knowledge of the producer, origin or vintage (as was done for the FNB Top 10 competition) whereas it seems you believe that if you taste wine from one specific appellation without knowing the name of the producer, that would constitute the process as being “blind”. In the past I recall that you complained vociferously about a bias that occurs when Platter tasters supposedly know the origin / appellation of the wines they are tasting, and following a logical train of thought that would mean that tasting “in situ”, as you did, would also immediately discredit the concept of “blind”.
Yes, you are quite correct that producers pay to enter the FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc competition, and any funds generated are used in the interests of furthering the cause of South African Sauvignon Blanc. The FNB Top 10 competition also employs an auditor (at no small expense) to ensure that the whole process is above board and transparent, something it seems you do not deem necessary?
The Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc pack is no different to the Top 10 Pinotage pack that has been offered for many years. Why would you now want to comment on this when you have never said anything in this regard in the past? And how this can throw question marks regarding the selection process I would love to know. Please enlighten me what your concerns are, and I will get the auditors to confirm that the Top 10 pack offered for sale in no way influenced the selection process.
I see that you state that the Top Ten of other varietals will appear in your guide at no extra charge. Will your guide be distributed for free, or will the guide also be a commercial sideshow to your roadtrip?
My humble apologies for the spelling mistake (“esther” instead of “ester”). Then again, we all do make mistakes and I see in the “About” part of your blog that you own a small farm on the “Paarderg”. The closest I could get to that on Google was the Dutch “paard erg” which loosely translates to a horse being too much or full of anything. Quite apt I thought.
Ps. Can you please confirm the price on the Spioenkop “1900″ 2011 as quoted in your list? You have it at R62 whereas I have it as R85?
Pieter de Waal
(in my personal capacity)
Can you please enlighten us as to what conclusions your readers should be drawing? Yes, it’s common knowledge that I’m the secretary of the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group (SBIG) and have held that position for the last eight years, so there’s no secret about it. Also, I apologised personally for the spelling mistake in the press release, so I believe your readers have a pretty good idea of where I’m coming from. The reason for my comment being “in my personal capacity” is that the questions I ask, and comments I make, are my personal opinions, and not that of SBIG (the chairperson of SBIG, as you know, is Erika Obermeyer, so if you would want an official response please feel free to request one from her).
Otherwise, I see you have corrected Paarderg in the About part of your blog without acknowledging it in your subsequent comment – that’s a bit of bad blogging sportsmanship, but let it be.
I see you haven’t deigned to answer any of my questions, or to confirm the price on the Spioenkop “1900″ 2011. I have confirmed with Koen Roose that the price is indeed R85 and not R62 as stated in your blog (hopefully this will not affect your selection process as the wine is indeed a lovely expression of Elgin Sauvignon Blanc).
Pieter de Waal
(in my personal capacity)
First of all: thanks for the tasting of our wine and of course, for being selected in the top 10!
Apparently, there is some confusion about our price of our “1900” Sauvignon Blanc 2011.
Hopefully, it’s more clear after reading the below:
Our farm price = R 85
The price we are asking to a shop, restaurant, … (trade price) = R 62 (excl. vat)
Should you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us again.
P.O. Box / Posbus 340
Grabouw – Elgin Valley
SBSIG = sauvignon blanc self-interest group. 70% of SBSIG list are 2012s. Smells like some seriously infantile palates.
Would the troll who stole Pieter please return him with a sense of humour.
Pieter, what happened to Bartinney Sauvignon Blanc?
Would you agree that it’s not a great idea to quote a VAT exclusive trade price in a consumer publication or on a consumer focused blog? Are the other prices you quote trade, cellar door or retail? Will the wines in your Top 10 still be available to purchase once your “consumer guide” is released? Not much sense, methinks, to have a consumer guide recommending wines that aren’t available to purchase?
Bartinney did not enter the 2012 FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 Competition.
The panel can only judge the wines entered by producers into the FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc competition, and due to the fact that producers need to have 1 200 bottles available for sale on the day that the winners are announced, very few wines older than 2011 were entered (notably the Lomond Sugarbush 2010, a fantastic “older” Sauvignon Blanc, was included in the Top 20).
I love the fact that you question my sense of humour, just before going into unsubstantiated insults regarding the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group (SBIG), an organisation that acts in the best interests of the whole South African Sauvignon Blanc industry. If you could find me one producer who would be willing to state that SBIG is in any way self-serving, I would seriously investigate any such charge.
Otherwise, my sense of humour is, contrary to popular belief, perfectly in place. To give you an example:
A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says: “It’s probably not a good idea that you’re in here, You’re a very large animal, any sudden movements may injure somebody, I don’t know why you’re here, none of the glasses are ergonomically designed for you, you should probably leave.”
Pieter de Waal
(still in my personal capacity)
I am astounded that both lists fail to taste any Elim SB. Best region for SB in South Africa by some stretch. Most expensive ton of grapes sold between South African farmers last year was for a ton of SB from Elim to a Stellenbosch winery.
Tired of the Tutti Frutti nonsense produced in the wrong areas.
totally agree. for logistical reasons, we relied on the various wine routes to organize our blind tastings. we then exchanged our ratings for brand names (obviating the need for auditors). we couldn’t find an elim wine route so alas, their wines went untasted.
At last, Neil and I agree on something, being that the Elim ward, which forms part of the greater Agulhas district, is a source of some very exciting Sauvignon Blanc.
As stated in my response to Nixy, the FNB Top 10 panel can only judge wines entered, and there were only a few Elim wines in the competition. Notably the First Sighting 2010 showed very well, and went into the final round of tasting to determine the Top 20.
That said, the Lomond single vineyard wines, that are certified as Wine of Origin Agulhas and situated quite close to Elim, did fare extremely well at the FNB Top 10 Competition with the Pincushion 2011 making into the Top 10, and the Sugarbush 2010 into the Top 20. I am quite sure you wouldn’t describe those wines as being “Tutti Frutti nonsense produced in the wrong areas”?
I believe it is important to accept and understand that South African Sauvignon Blanc offers a multitude of styles and aromatics and that there is no single “correct” taste. The FNB Top 10 gives an excellent spectrum of South African Sauvignon Blanc, and would do us all proud in a line-up of international examples.
Ps. I would love to know who sold what to whom, and at which price (the most expensive ton of SB grapes you refer to). Please feel free to contact me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further.
Pieter de Waal
(in my personal capacity)