More than five years ago I travelled south to visit Lomond, near the southernmost tip of Africa – I called it “perhaps the grandest and most ambitious of the Agulhas projects”. Mighty Distell is a partner here, and the wines are made in Distell’s Bergkelder cellar. The white wines were the more impressive back then (and I suspect they remain so now), and I wrote enthusiastically about the two single-vineyard sauvignon blancs (there’s also a blended version). Sugarbush, I said “always tends to display the variety’s greener characters, and Pincushion shows more ripe, perhaps tropical notes. They can both age well for at least three or four years in bottle – they’ve only been producing the stuff since 2006 so we can’t say more than that!”
Now, in 2015, we can say more than that: we can confirm, in fact, that in the best vintages at least, like 2007, these two sauvignons can age very happily for eight years – and I can see no reason why (well stored, of course) they shouldn’t see out a decade with some complacency. I’ve just tasted (and re-tasted, over two days) a mini-double-vertical of them (2007, 2010 and 2012) and it’s also clear to me that, while they are very different wines, justifying their separate bottlings, the difference between them is more complex than just “green” versus “tropical”.
Of course, the most interesting pairing was the 2007s. Both have been plentifully garlanded with awards. The 2009 Trophy Wine Show judges preferred the Sugarbush (both got gold, but this got the trophy), and perhaps I do too, six years on. It’s lively and bright, with a dusty quality, especially on the nose, that I also found on other vintages of this wine and not on the Pincushion. Some developed green notes (asparagus, green bean), but more on the second day than the first. Still a great deal of intense flavour, and the serious acidity was integrated and balanced.
Pincushion 2007 showed some developed green pungency immediately. Again, a serious wine – somewhat less easily charming than Sugarbush, being leaner, and probably needing a food accompaniment more to show well. Actually, I must confess that, however respectful I feel towards these wines, I wasn’t impelled to continue sipping either of them – but I’m not a notable sauvignon fan, after all.
The 2010s were the least impressive pairing of the three, probably, and didn’t offer the promise of the longevity evidenced in the 2007s. Here my vote definitely went to Pincushion – I enjoyed its rich texture, the savoury and somehow warm acidity, the good balance. It was starting to show development, with the green notes acquiring their distinctive aged quality on the finish. Sugarbush evidenced a small whack of residual sugar (about 4 grams per litre, I’d guess), which I didn’t much care for, as well as some rather harsh warmth from the big alcohol. The fruit was less concentrated than it might have been, adding to my impression of over-ripeness.
There is also a sugar sweetness on the 2012 Sugarbush. (I have no idea why sugar is more prominent on this wine than the Pincushion – no doubt it’s part of the particular vineyard contribution, somehow, as I believe they are treated very similarly.) On the other hand, there is a greater incipient complexity and interest here than on the 2012 Pincushion, I feel, although it is less intense and obvious. Floral, lime, citrus notes – all the fruit characters that the older vintages transmuted – and pleasingly zesty. I liked it very much. Both of these are way above your standard sauvignon (and priced accordingly).
Pincushion 2012 does have riper notes – a bit more tropicality, and some very pleasing blackcurrant. The acidity is satisfyingly piercing without being at all aggressive.
Myself, I’d probably rather drink these wines fairly youngish, with a few rather than ten years on them. But for those who appreciate mature sauvignons, the Lomond offerings are certainly candidates for interesting and rewarding ageing. I salute them!