FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc Winners Show Terroir and Accurate Winemaking

The Durbanville Wine Valley dominated this year’s FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc Competition, South Africa’s leading wine competition dedicated to recognising wines made from the country’s most popular single white grape varietal.

Four of this year’s FNB Top 10 wines are based in Durbanville with awards going to Diemersdal Winter Ferment 2018, Nitida Wild Child Sauvignon Blanc 2017, D’Aria The Songbird Sauvignon Blanc 2017 and De Grendel Koetshuis 2017.

Both the De Grendel and Nitida are wooded wines.

The remaining six wines on the FNB Top 10 are Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Rustenberg Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Bellingham Homestead Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Flagstone Free Run Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Kleine Zalze Vineyard Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2017, and the Fryer’s Cove Doringbay Sauvignon Blanc 2017.

This is the seventh consecutive year the FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc Competition has been held, a collaboration between FNB and the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group (SBIG).

According to RJ Botha, Kleine Zalze winemaker and chairperson of SBIG, the Top 20 finalists selected for this year’s FNB Sauvignon Top 10 underscore the commitment to Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa producers,” he says. “Among the finalists we saw wines representing a diverse range of South African terroir as well as an intriguing spread of styles.”

The wines that made the initial Top 20 cut originated from a diverse range of regions, showing that top Sauvignon Blanc is impervious to geographical boundaries.

“Obviously cool climate regions such as Durbanville, Elgin and Elim were well-represented among the Top 20 as these regions have played a major role in pioneering quality Sauvignon Blanc in South Africa,” says Botha. “But Stellenbosch, Paarl and Robertson also produced wines worthy of Top 20 selection, showing us the versatility of the Sauvignon Blanc grape and the skills of the winemakers who transpose the fruit into exceptional wines.”

Botha says that it is worth noting that three wooded Sauvignon Blancs cracked the Top 20, showing growing acceptance by the judges to include a broader scope of styles.

“One of the reasons Sauvignon Blanc is growing in the market-place is because producers have not allowed themselves to be boxed into definite stylistic parameters,” he says. “Sure, 12 to 15 years ago the wines traded on the green, pyrazine-driven proposition of upfront freshness. Today, as producers’ understanding of their sites and the grapes’ intrinsics grow, we are finding wines with tropical notes, riveting mineral expression and maritime salinity.

“And that is what makes this such an exciting category – the growth is not only in the market’s increasing love for the wine, but the dynamic range or wines the category has to offer,” he says.

Neil Ellis, South African winemaking legend and convenor of the panel of judges for this year’s FNB Top 10, says the objective of this year’s judging panel was to embrace the diversity of styles and the representation of terroir within the Sauvignon Blanc category.

“And we were not disappointed,” he says. “Noticeable has been the moving away from over-the-top pyrazine flavour-profiles – where pyrazine characters were present they were a part of the holistic style, complementary to the other features,” he says. “If we look at the general nature of the finalists I can say that panel rewarded good viticulture and accurate winemaking practices. These aspects are crucial in producing fine wines from the Sauvignon Blanc grape.”

Ellis also said the wooded examples showed unique, individual characters, as was the case with the older wines.

“The smarter wines in the line-up impressed with the texture and mouthfeel, and indication of the exciting road that lies ahead for South African Sauvignon Blanc.”

Congratulating this year’s FNB Top 10 winners and finalists, Stephen Claassen, Provincial Head: Western Cape for FNB Business, said it was evident that the standards of winemaking for Sauvignon Blanc were increasing each year.

“Listening to the judges’ comments, Sauvignon Blanc appears to not only be growing on a commercial level as South Africa’s leading white variety, but the category’s quality is improving in leaps and bounds,” he says. “FNB is pleased to be aligned with this enormously exciting part of the country’s wine industry, one showing both excellence and market resonance.”

Joining Ellis on the judging panel this year were Winnie Bowman (CWM), wine writer and judge Christian Eedes and winemakers Wilhelm Pienaar and Johann Fourie.

Runners-up for the FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 were:

  • Darling Cellars : 2018 Darling Cellars Reserve Bush Vine Sauvignon Blanc
  • Delaire Graff Estate: 2018 Delaire Graff Sauvignon Blanc
  • Hidden Valley Wines: 2017 Hidden Valley Sauvignon Blanc
  • Iona: 2018 Iona Sauvignon Blanc
  • Kleine Zalze: 2017 Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Sauvignon Blanc
  • Marianne Wine Estate: 2017 Marianne Sauvignon Blanc (wooded)
  • Nova Zonnestraal Estate :2018 Nova Zonnestraal Constantia Royale Sauvignon Blanc
  • Rietvallei Wine Estate: 2018 Rietvallei Sauvignon Blanc
  • Strandveld Vineyards: 2017 Strandveld Vineyards Pofadderbos Sauvignon Blanc
  • Windmeul Kelder: 2018 Windmeul Kelder Sauvignon Blanc
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