One of the most inspiring wine categories in South Africa. That’s what made RJ Botha, winemaker at Kleine Zalze in Stellenbosch and new chairman of the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group (SBIG), keen to take up this organisational role.
“Besides absolutely loving to work with Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyards and the cellar, the fact that this variety is South Africa’s most favoured white grape gives me an extra spring in my step when furthering the interest of the cultivar,” he says.
“SBIG has done an amazing job in creating an interest in Sauvignon Blanc to the consumer, the retail buyers and the restaurant trade. We largely have to thank their success in helping make Sauvignon Blanc South Africa’s number one selling variety and best loved white wine.”
Botha’s next step is to preside over this year’s FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 Awards for the first time as chairman.
“The Top 20 finalists selected for this year’s FNB Sauvignon Top 10 underscore the commitment to Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa producers,” he says. “Among the Top 20 finalists we see wines representing a diverse range of South African terroir as well as a spread of styles.”
The wines that made the Top 20 cut originate from a diverse range of regions, showing that top Sauvignon Blanc is impervious to being boxed-into geographical boundaries.
“Obviously cool climate regions such as Durbanville, Elgin and Elim are well-represented among the Top 20 as these regions have played a major role in pioneering quality Sauvignon Blanc in South Africa,” says Botha. “But Stellenbosch, Paarl and Robertson also produced wines worthy of Top 20 selection, showing us the versatility of the Sauvignon Blanc grape and the skills of the winemakers who transpose the fruit into exceptional wines.”
Botha says that it is worth noting that three wooded Sauvignon Blancs cracked the Top 20, showing growing acceptance by the judges to include a broader scope of styles.
“One of the reasons Sauvignon Blanc is growing in the market-place is because producers have not allowed themselves to be boxed into definite stylistic parameters,” he says. “Sure, 12 to 15 years ago the wines traded on the green, pyrazine-driven proposition of upfront freshness. Today, as producers’ understanding of their sites and the grapes’ intrinsics grow, we are finding wines with tropical notes, riveting mineral expression and maritime salinity.
“And that is what makes this such an exciting category – the growth is not only in the market’s increasing love for the wine, but the dynamic range or wines the category has to offer,” he says.
This year’s FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc Awards takes place on 10 October at Landskapt in Stellenbosch.
“We are going with a smart evening function this year,” says Botha. “It’s time to step-up the image of Sauvignon Blanc – its reputation deserves the best.”