While South Africans have wholeheartedly embraced Bordeaux-style reds, it’s time we started taking the Cape’s style of the region’s white blends more seriously.
For a country that drinks Sauvignon Blanc and lots of it, it’s perhaps surprising that there’s not more love for the Bordeaux-style white. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon which offers a more refined, expressive and textural experience than the varieties separately. In my opinion, it is one of the ways South African Sauvignon Blanc shows best — especially with some time in barrel and a year or two of maturation. The Sémillon component balances the often harsh, astringent and green notes of the Sauvignon while adding a weighty mouthfeel and complexity. In addition to being magnificently drinkable on their own, they also make for outstanding food wines — perfect for pairing menus or dinner-party quaffing. Below are three of my favourites to sip and savour as we head into summer.
Boschendal Suzanne 2019
This exciting new release by the iconic wine farm, sees winemaker Danielle Jacobs craft an elegant and restrained white blend. The wine comprises 54% Sémillon and 46% Sauvignon Blanc and is sourced from Elgin vineyards, demonstrating the beauty of these varieties from the region. An incredibly well-made wine, the lightly oaked blend displays notes of white-stone fruit, granadilla and fig, with a flinty minerality and a zesty, refreshing acidity. It’s drinking beautifully now but after another year or two in bottle, the Sémillon component should come to the fore — developing that signature oily texture on the palate — which will be truly spectacular.
Savage White 2020
A wine of sensational tension and texture. Duncan Savage’s current release is the first Savage White since 2014 to exclude chenin blanc and comprises 76% Sauvignon Blanc and 24% Sémillon — making it sit comfortably within the category of Cape Bordeaux-style whites. Though young, it’s already showing remarkable complexity and depth. It’s rich and opulent with an oily, all-encompassing mouthfeel paired with a balancing acidity, creating phenomenal tension. Notes of blackcurrant, sweet peach, ClemenGold and passion fruit mingle with the salinity of a sea-breeze and complimenting minerality. Incredibly multi-faceted yet perfectly in harmony, it’s very clever winemaking.
Constantia Glen Two 2019
As SA’s most renowned Sauvignon Blanc region, Constantia’s wine estates are unsurprisingly pouring some seriously stellar Sauvignon/Sémillon blends. Constantia Glen’s Two is one. The estate’s flagship white blend comprises 67% Sauvignon Blanc and 33% Sémillon and is made by Justin van Wyk. It’s magnificent and concentrated, expressing notes of tropical fruit, pithiness and a stony minerality; gorgeously rich and textured with a weighty, waxy mouthfeel, zingy acidity and a luscious lingering finish.