A fine mature sauvignon

Chatting to Christian Eedes recently about his competition for ten-year old wines, and regretting that it was only for reds, I suddenly remembered an older white I’d neglected to mention in my last little blog. My forgetting to include it says more about the state of my mind than the state of the wine that evening in Riebeek-Kasteel.

Quoin Rock’s maiden Nicobar Sauvignon Blanc, from 2007, received much early acclaim. It managed to convey its great quality to beat the odds and triumph over at least two biggish line-ups, getting not only five Platter stars but also a 2009 Trophy Wine Show trophy.

From the start it showed all the racy, vibrant freshness of its Agulhas origins, but this was tempered and coaxed into sheer loveliness by a little residual sugar (as with German rieslings with the same level of sweetness, sugar simply wasn’t evident), and by fermentation and maturation in older oak. (Almost as a rule, my favourite local sauvignon blancs have been barrel-matured: like Reyneke White, Chamonix, the occasional Cape Point, and this.)

From release, there was a defining note of blackcurrant to the Nicobar 2007, and it’s still there. The wine has developed beautifully, gained a bit of serenity and fullness, perhaps, but is still immensely fresh and lively, pleasingly balanced. At six years, there’s none of the asparagus, green pea character which (to my mind and palate) adds an unwelcome touch to too many sauvignons of that sort of age.

Nicobar is only made in the best vintages. The 2009 was pretty near as good – I haven’t tasted it recently – and I’m not really sure about the 2011; I must try it again properly, my enthusiasm rekindled by this marvellous 2007. Of which I’m glad to say I still have one bottle left, which I’ll broach in a year or so; I think it is the only Cape sauvignon blanc that I have ever actually bought  – let alone three bottles!

Two remaining thoughts, then – one, that I hope that Quoin Rock is pulling itself together well after its recent sale to help pay off Dave King’s debt to SARS. I remember at the time of the sale to a Ukrainian businessman, reading of a warning from Mr. King that legal challenges (presumably from him) might even see the new owner eventually losing the estate, but haven’t heard more of that. I must go and find out what’s happening there.

The other thought that, again, it would be good to have more events that show the ageability of the best Cape white wines. The trouble is that the cellars don’t always keep stocks of the stuff themselves – a point Christian made. Perhaps the competition can extend to white wines – but it’ll probably only be for five-year olds, which will be a good start.

I have no doubt that there are 2003s that would have shown well this year. Maybe even a couple of sauvignons and rieslings, certainly a handful of chardonnays (Hamilton Russell and Chamonix for a proven start). And some blends, though 2003 was still early days for both the Bordeaux-style and Swartland-style whites. But Vergelegen White was showing spectacularly well (and youthfully) last year. Trouble is – even Vergelegen doesn’t have any left.

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