When the “Top 10 Sauvignon Blancs” of the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group’s big blind-tasting competition were announced yesterday, there were some obvious rhetorical overlaps (OK, clichés) with last year’s announcement: “South Africa’s finest”, a “formidable team” of wine judges…. Arguably more problematically, the list itself has some continuities with 2015s – not, of course, in any consistency in the wines, but (and here I can quote my own comment from last year): “As usual, there’s a mingling of some well-known names and some obscure ones. I’m sure these are all perfectly nice wines, some of them excellent. But will anyone in the world who knows from experience anything about Cape sauvignon begin to believe that as a group they constitute ‘South Africa’s finest’? Surely not.”
I suppose we must regard it as encouraging that, unlike last year, there is a representative from the trio of areas widely recognised as being the Cape’s leading sauvignon producers (along with Stellenbosch): Elgin, Constantia and Elim. This year an Elgin wine is there amongst the lucky 10 (from “expatriate” producer, Tokara). Of course, we don’t know how many entries there were from those areas’ top producers (too many to list), as the list of failures is not available from competitions like this.
Actually, it might well be considered encouraging that the Top 10 – none of which are too implausible, whether or not they’re really all “wines of true finesse and distinction” – come from widely scattered origins; though this is not mentioned in the press release, perhaps because they didn’t want to attract attention to the absence of Constantia, Cape Point and Agulhas. Anyway, as far as I can see, in addition to the Stellenbosch contingent, there are wines from Breedekloof, Darling, Stellenbosch, Tygerberg, even the Swartland – and I think the Kleine Zalze is a Stellenbosch-Durbanville mix.
Does this competition really teach anyone anything? Does it serve a useful purpose? I would guess that you could take, for example, all the sauvignons scoring four stars in Platter, put their names in a hat and pull out ten, and the list would be as convincing and plausible as this – the deliberations of those formidable judges notwithstanding.
This year’s Top 10 wines, in alphabetical order, are
- Cederberg Private Cellar Sauvignon Blanc 2015
- Jordan Wine Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014
- Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Sur Lie Sauvignon Blanc 2015
- Merwida Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2015
- Mooiplaas Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015
- Nederburg Two Centuries Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (wooded)
- Overhex Wines Survivor Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (wooded)
- Spier 21 Gables Sauvignon Blanc 2015
- Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2015
- Uva Mira Sing-a-Wing Sauvignon Blanc 2015