2012 Downes Family "Sanctuary Peak" Sauvignon Blanc Elgin South Africa

SKU #1125912 92 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

 (blended with 11% barrel-fermented semillon): Bright pale yellow. Aromas of gooseberry, lime leaf and citrus peel are almost New Zealand-like in their penetrating pungency. Then juicy, spicy and very dry but with excellent texture and intensity to the uncompromising flavors of citrus peel, white pepper and flinty minerals. Excellent sauvignon blanc with real depth and spicy length, and a dusty peppery quality that leaves the mouth refreshed. A lot of sauvignon blanc for the price--and one to seek out.

K&L Notes

Historically significant as the nation's main region for apple and pear production, South Africa's Elgin Valley is quickly becoming a site for premium winemaking. Downes Family Vineyards currently works with blocks of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and a little Viognier with the objective of crafting wines that express Elgin's Valley's unique terroir. The "Sanctuary Peak" Sauvignon Blanc is based on fruit from a block planted to pure sandstone on Table Mountain. Sauvignon Blanc from here ripens well but yields stay low. It expresses intense grassy, green citrus, herbal, and flinty aromas and flavors, and is fermented in stainless steel to preserve freshness.Then, the addition of a small amount of French oak barrel-fermented, lees-aged Semillon lends richness and texture, for a Bordeaux-inspired style with the structure to age.

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Price: $13.99
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Sauvignon Blanc

- One of the best known "international" varieties originally cultivated in France and considered the parent of, with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon. Sauvignon's wonderfully distinctive aromatics generate some of wine's most colorful descriptors, among them "cat pee," herbaceous, grassy, citrusy the world over. In France, the apex of Sauvignon Blanc production is the Loire Valley, in the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, where the terroir expresses itself most beautifully through the grape. Sauvignon Blanc is also the leading white grape varietal in Bordeaux, where it is paired with the fatter, richer Sémillon to varying degrees. Relatively easy to cultivate, though more suited to cool climates, Sauvignon Blanc has made inroads in Europe outside of France, especially in Northeastern Italy's Friuli and Alto Adige, but also on the Slovenian border. These lovely wines are often overshadowed by Sauvignon Blanc's achievements in the New World, namely New Zealand, South Africa and California. New Zealand's Sauvignon Blancs, more conspicuously fruity than most French examples, landed the small island nation on the world wine map in the late-1980s and 1990s. South African Sauvignons are one of the most successful international varieties produced in that country and are often quite elegant and affordable. In California, Robert Mondavi managed to, almost single-handedly, created a market for Sauvignon Blanc by renaming his oak-fermented version Fumé Blanc. While some wineries still use the name, California Sauvignon Blanc has secured its place in the California wine pantheon, particularly those from the Napa Valley. Washington State, Chile and Argentina also have considerable plantings of the grape.

South Africa

- Now that it has adopted a multi-racial attitude, and now that the world has embraced its government and its exports, South Africa has become a major wine producer. Unfortunately, South Africa has had a difficult time joining the ranks of competitive winemaking countries. During the anti-apartheid sanctions in the 1980s, South African wine was dealt the huge blow when it was removed from the international market, and for political reasons it was quite difficult for wine producers to market wine to the black majority. Things are finally looking up for the wine industry here, and quality has never been higher. South Africa produces a grape cloned from Pinot Noir and Cinsault, called Pinotage, which is the country's unique varietal. Chenin Blanc (known as Steen) makes up one-third of its vines. Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Shiraz are becoming increasingly popular as are Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Click for a list of bestselling items from South Africa.