How long has it been since I tasted a South African Sauvignon Blanc, or any wine from this country, that caught my fancy? Too long. That it happened, and at a random tasting in Chelsea, was more than cause enough for a purchase and this subsequent post. Sauvignon Blanc, by the way, is one of my favorite white varietals. Among the other “noble” grapes, Riesling shows itself through transparency and grace, and Chardonnay makes you reel with its sensuality and layered opulence; Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, is the crisp, snappy, kissed-by-chlorophyll grape that hints at scents of growing things. I consider it my go-to white wine for any occasion where I’m not sure what I want.
The maker of this wine, Buitenverwachting, is based in Constantia, a founding estate near Cape Town at the very tip of South Africa. Established in 1796, this farm has been producing wine since the mid-1800’s. Buitenverwachting is Afrikaans for ‘beyond expectation,” which certainly applies to the wine itself. Through changing fortunes, the farm remained intact, although decades passed where no wine was produced at all – until the Mueller family restored the vineyards in 1980, and started producing wines of unique aromatic quality and international acclaim (or so it is said; the one I tried was tasty at least). Cape Town being a coastal region, the climate is moderated nicely by cooling sea breezes. The vines are situated on sloping fields of deep granite soils, allowing them to take root and get to business. Speaking of which, this is apparently the choice wine for business and first class seats on several international airlines!
On to the wine itself: our 2008 Buitenverwachting “Beyond” Sauvignon Blanc is a serious value, crackling with individualistic style. A pale green-gold in the glass, the nose is loaded with aromas of lemon and lime zest, lavender, pine sap, and gooseberries, backed by pronounced herbal notes (think spearmint and sage). More citrus fruit and herbal elements, green pepper and dusty spice, complement a snappy mouthfeel, with lively acidity tingling against a touch of residual sugar. A few years have given it a honeyed note as well. Firm finish, not quite tart; right up my alley. Pair with shellfish prepared just about any way you like, or lightly herbed sautéed whitefish. $10.