Mother’s Day (31 March) is the perfect occasion to open a bottle of crisp, refreshing South African wine. Following a tasting tour, Victoria recommends the best bottles to buy.
The wind is so strong it snatches the stream of wine as it’s poured, splashing it left and right before it can reach the glass. The flapping parasols have to come down before they knock someone out. So we stand and watch the white clouds pouring over Chapman’s Peak, racing through the clear air to engulf us. Such weather – although unusual for the season – is a reminder that, contrary to popular belief, Cape vineyards do not all roast under a hot sun. At altitude, and in coastal areas, South Africa has the perfect conditions to make crisp, refreshing white wine.
I think we all know someone with a sauvignon blanc obsession. And if you don’t, then I can probably notch up enough to cover your allowance. My mother is one of them; she has a fixation with a particular wine called The Ned, which is made in gigantic quantities in Marlborough, New Zealand, and drunk in equally gigantic quantities in the UK. I know nothing else she drinks will provide the same satisfaction, because part of the pleasure is in the anticipation, and then in the expectation being perfectly met. But in the interests of broadening horizons just slightly, I like to offer alternatives – and when it comes to sauvignon blanc, South Africa has plenty of good ones.
My windswept tasting was at Cape Point Vineyards, a sauvignon blanc specialist situated on the peninsula that curls round False Bay, just to the south of Cape Town. There’s something Sancerre-like about the texture and grassiness of its sauvignon, but there’s something else, too. Like many other South African sauvignon blancs, there’s a fierce pungency. The scent leaps out of the glass, vivid and bold, all white currants, white asparagus and lemon. Cape Point Vineyards is between UK importers at the moment, but there are plenty of other names you can look out for.
Klein Constantia, a half-hour drive away, is another sauvignon blanc specialist. What I like about its wines is that they’re not too shrill. ‘A very offensive word at Klein Constantia is “green”,’ says winemaker Matthew Day. ‘We work hard not to make the green pepper style of sauvignon blanc.’ As well as the Klein Constantia sauvignon blanc 2017/18 (£14.99, Majestic Wine), it’s also worth seeking out the Klein Constantia Metis sauvignon blanc, made using methods Matthew learnt while visiting Pascal Jolivet in Sancerre.
Another one of my favourites for both taste and value is the utterly superb Iona sauvignon blanc 2018 (£13.99, Cambridge Wine Merchants). With hints of clementine, blossom, lime and gooseberry, this is dangerously drinkable. The vineyards are in the apple-growing region of Elgin and command fabulous views over the Atlantic Ocean and the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. Finally, try De Grendel sauvignon blanc 2017/18 (£11.99, Waitrose & Partners), which has a faint tang of nectarines. Actually, my mother likes this one, too.
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What drinks will you be celebrating Mother's Day with? Leave a comment below...
Victoria Moore is an award-winning wine columnist and author. Her most recent book is The Wine Dine Dictionary (£20, Granta).