South Africa is one of the world’s oldest non-European winemaking countries, its romance with the grape dating back more than 350 years. But since the end of apartheid in the 1990s and the country’s emergence as a democracy, its wine world has taken a giant leap forward. In the past 10 years, there has been an explosion of new wineries, new vineyards and new young winemakers trained in Europe and the United States returning home with new technologies, new concepts and new passion.
From this rebirth has come a wide range of fascinating wines. Among the whites, none has evoked more international acclaim than those made from Sauvignon Blanc, a grape known for its tanginess and clean, refreshing flavor. It is a major grape in France and New Zealand and is planted in many other countries. In South Africa, it has found a natural home.
Of all the country’s Sauvignon Blanc, the standard-bearer is grown by Mulderbosch, a small winery with a big reputation and a highly sought-after wine whose flavors are exquisitely focused-crisp, racy and succulent with an echo of gooseberries.
Another great choice if you like gooseberries is Neil Ellis Groenekloof Range Sauvignon Blanc.The fruit leaps out of the bottle along with lemony overtones and a hint of just mown grass.This is a flinty wine with a long, zesty finish.
Cape Point Vineyards released its first Sauvignon Blanc in 2000, and it is a winner, filled with citric flavors and a whiff of fresh-cut grass mingled with smoke.
Thabani, a name that means “joy” in Xhosa, is one of the rare labels entirely owned by black South Africans. Its Sauvignon Blanc is fresh, lively and delicious.
Jardin displays an enticing minerally character, typical of the grape, with a touch of just mown grass. Southern Right also shows a mineral edge as well as citric fruits-a round, appealing wine.
As befits the king of the lot, Mulderbosch is the most expensive of these Sauvignon Blancs at $20 a bottle; Cape Point follows at $19. The others range from $13 to $16. All are natural choices with seafood, vegetable dishes and appetizers. And all are well priced for exceptional wine.
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