Sauvignon Blanc in
The best regions in South Africa are those cooled by the oceans. For that reason, Durbanville and Constantia, with their proximity to the breezes, make some of the most exciting Sauvignon Blanc in the country.
Elgin is also known for quality Sauvignon Blanc. Here, the vines are cooled by the altitude.
Both the ocean breezes and altitude give the variety freshness and aroma. There is often too much heat in areas like Stellenbosch and the Swartland to retain those qualities, along with the grape’s signature high acidity.
50% of white wine that is varietally labelled in South Africa is Sauvignon Blanc - an undoubtedly popular choice.
Sauvignon Blanc is the 3rd most planted white grape, after Chenin Blanc, at 10,5% of the total vineyard plantings.
It is unknown when the grape first arrived in South Africa, but records show that it was planted at Groot Constantia by the late 1880’s
Watch and learn
Vino Noir on Sauvignon Blanc
Join dynamic duo Qhama and Thulani from Vino Noir as they chat through more about the white grape variety - Sauvignon Blanc and what it is.
South Africa’s Sauvignon Blancs are some of the ripest, in terms of fruit flavour, with vibrancy and acidity to match.
The tropical fruit flavours, although not as tropical or zesty as New Zealand, are matched with pungent, elderflower aromas along with the grape’s distinctive herbaceous quality.
The key to Sauvignon Blanc is that it has high acidity. We talk about balance all the time. Remember, it’s all about your perception of acidity. If you aren’t used to acidity in the foods that you eat, you might find it sour. But there’s a brightness, freshness, and a piercing character that runs through a wine. It is pungently aromatic and zesty in character.
Typical aromas are asparagus, kiwi, lemon, lime, peas, passion fruit, gooseberry, nettle, and freshly mown lawn.
The alcohol doesn’t tend to be north of 14%.
The methoxypyrazines chemicals give you the green, herbaceous, capsicum and blackcurrant leaf character. Some people love it, some find it too grassy and herbal.
Across the world
Grown in most of the world, Sauvignon Blanc performs well at low yields. If the growth is too vigorous, it loses its aromatics which is a key part of its style. It can be machine or hand-harvested which is an important factor if you consider New Zealand doesn’t have enough affordable manual labour, with the majority of their grapes being machine harvested. Whilst South Africa, in contrast, makes use of mainly hand harvesting as labour is, regrettably, affordable and plentiful.
Together with the variety being prone to mildew, Sauvignon Blanc requires some attention in the vineyards.
There is something whistle-clean about this grape - the clarity of style, and obvious characteristics make these wines very easily distinguishable.
The grape originated in France, in the regions of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Plantings in California, Australia, Chile and South Africa are also extensive, and Sauvignon blanc is steadily increasing in popularity as white wine drinkers seek alternatives to Chardonnay.
In the vineyard
Sauvignon Blanc is par excellence the wine that is synonymous with alfresco dining... with ice cubes! You can drink it quickly. It’s the acidity that makes you want to have another refreshing glass at the bar. It’s crispy. It’s clean. It’s unadulterated. It’s bright and fun without being complicated. And that’s what makes you want to have another glass.
Sauvignon Blanc works well with green salad dressed in vinaigrette. Asparagus drizzled in olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice is also delicious. Goat cheese is the classic pairing. That's because the acidity in the wine is able to stand up to the acidity in all these dishes. It can also counterbalance the richness of smoked fish.
If you're not spreading your goat cheese on a cracker, then try baking a few goat cheese tartlets with caramelised onions. While we've got the oven on, whip up a quick bacon and leek quiche. If you have the skills, a cheese soufflé would be perfect.
Repeat after me: Sauvignon Blanc is made for seafood. Shellfish, grilled fish, smoked salmon, yellowtail, goujons, hake and chips and calamari. No, I haven't forgotten about oysters. Those creamy, minerally pops of goodness love being paired with the brightness of Sauvignon Blanc. Think of the wine as the drizzle of lemon that you'd normally squirt over your oyster.
So you prefer your food to be cooked? No problem. Sauvignon Blanc is good with white meats like pork and chicken. Also think about warm Mediterranean countries with their tapas-styled meals, countries like Greece and Mexico. Remember how you add balsamic vinegar to your feta salad? What's the best way to finish off your tacos and guacamole? A squeeze of lime. Making those connections between the high acids that you dress your food in, and the similarity in acid levels of Sauvignon Blanc, will open up a world of food pairings.
Or you could just drink it on its own...with a block of ice!