The fourth annual Wine magazine Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 competition attracted 230 entries, up from 226 last year and 186 the year before. Examine the results and once again there can be little dispute that this is currently South Africa’s strongest category. There was one wine rated 5 Stars (compared to three in 2009), a further seven 4½ Stars (13 in 2009) and 29 4 Stars (33 in 2009). The consensus was that 2009 was a stand-out vintage but 2010 hardly disappoints, eight of the top 10 being from this harvest.

The panel was at pains to reward different styles but it does seem as if Darling, Durbanville and Elim are now out in front when it comes to producing the country’s best-quality Sauvignon Blanc grapes (see pages 44 to 50 for detailed profiles of the top 10 wines).
What was again pleasing to see is that the best wines are not excessively methoxypyrazine driven (the compound responsible for Sauvignon Blanc’s grassy or herbeaceous character) but showed good fruit expression and were wellbalanced thanks to grapes picked at optimal ripeness.
There were one or two examples where the producer was attempting a super-ripe style, but these usually came across as heavy-handed and ungainly and were not rewarded. Another stylistic trend in evidence was the use of oak. A deft approach to barrel maturation can certainly add greater weight to the mid-palate (Steenberg HMS Rattlesnake 2010 a case in point) but the panel was not in favour of wines that showed overt wood-derived aromas and flavours.
A particular point of controversy was the issue of volatile sulphur compounds, specifically mercaptans. Mercaptans are formed by yeast reacting with sulphur in the lees after the primary alcoholic fermentation and resulting aromas can include anything from the pleasant (grapefruit, blackcurrant) to highly disagreeable (sweaty, cabbage-like). The panel was divided as to how much of this character to tolerate.
Sauvignon Blanc is now easily the biggest category of wines that the Wine magazine panel judges from year to year, and the observation was made that the success of the category has been driven by basic economics. If the producer gets it right, it’s a real money-spinner; if he gets it wrong, it’s going to be a pretty slow mover as consumers have a plethora of alternatives. This means that serious attention is being applied across the board resulting in a very high overall level of quality.
THE TOP 10 (in order of Star rating, then ascending price)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Anura Unfiltered Reserve 2010
CELLAR PRICE: R80
Alc 13% RS 1.4g/L TA 7.6g/L pH 3.4
Intensely herbaceous on the nose. The palate is focused and pure with flavours of lime and green pepper. Excellent line of acidity. Drink now – 2012.
CE 18.5 | JP 18 | PdW 18 | TB 17 | FR 17.5

★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

  • Sauvignon.com 2010*
    APPROXIMATE RETAIL PRICE: R34.99
    Alc 14.02% RS 1.8g/L TA 8.1g/L pH 3.35
    Herbaceous, slightly sweaty nose. The palate is intensely flavoured, yet lean and
    very dry. Great line of acidity. Drink now.
    CE 17 | JP 17 | PdW 16 | TB 17.5 | FR 16.5
  • First Sighting 2009*
    STRANDVELD PRICE: R57
    Alc 13.1% RS 1.9g/L TA 6.3g/L pH 3.32
    Gravel-road dustiness and herbaceous character on the nose. The palate shows optimally ripe fruit and gentle acidity. Attractive paprika/white pepper note lends interest. Drink now.
    CE 17 | JP 17.5 | PdW 16 | TB 16.5 | FR 17
  • Cederberg 2010*
    CELLAR PRICE: R85
    Alc 13% RS 2.4g/L TA 7g/L pH 3.49
    Pungent nose showing plenty of grassy, herbaceous character. The palate shows great fruit expression and fresh acidity. Pronounced lime flavour. Clean and pure with a long finish. Drink now – 2013.
    CE 18 | JP 17 | PdW 17 | TB 17 | FR 15
  • De Grendel Koetshuis 2010*
    CELLAR PRICE: R85
    Alc 13.5% RS 1.5g/L TA 7.5g/L pH 3.4
    Very herbaceous on the nose. The palate is austere and elegant yet displays excellent flavour intensity. Lime and paprika flavour. Drink now – 2013.
    CE 18 | JP 17 | PdW 17.5 | TB 17 | FR 16.5
  • Strandveld 2010
    CELLAR PRICE: R90
    Alc 14.12% RS 1.8g/L TA 6.2g/L pH 3.34
    Gravel-road dustiness and herbaceous character on the nose. The palate is clean and pure with juicy fruit and fresh acidity. Lime and green pepper flavour. Drink now – 2013.
    CE 18 | JP 17 | PdW 17 | TB 16.5 | FR 16
  • Graham Beck
    Pheasants’ Run 2009*
    CELLAR PRICE: R135
    Alc 14.2% RS 1.8g/L TA 7.9g/L pH 3.52
    Intensely herbaceous on the nose and palate. Good palate weight, well integrated acidity. A complex wine with flavours of lime and paprika/white pepper. Drink now – 2012.
    CE 17 | JP 17.5 | PdW 16.5 | TB 17.5 | FR 16.5
  • Graham Beck
    Pheasants’ Run 2010*
    CELLAR PRICE: R135
    Alc 13.56% RS 2.3g/L TA 7g/L pH 3.44
    Intensely herbaceous on nose and palate. Clean and pure with juicy fruit and an excellent line of acidity. Long, dry finish. Drink now – 2013.
    CE 17 | JP 17 | PdW 17.5 | TB 16 | FR 16.5

★ ★ ★ ★

  • Darling Cellars Bush Vine 2010*
    CELLAR PRICE: R35
    Alc 12.62% RS 2.9g/L TA 6.9g/L pH 3.28
    Hint of green melon on an otherwise shy nose. Light-bodied, elegant and austere on the palate. Lemon-lime flavour, great line of acidity. Drink now.
    CE 18.5 | JP 16.5 | PdW 16 | TB 16 | FR 16.5
  • Groote Post Reserve 2009
    CELLAR PRICE: R95
    Alc 13.85% RS 3.9g/L TA 7.6g/L pH 3.45
    Very grassy, herbaceous on the nose. The palate is big but balanced with ripe, juicy fruit and tangy acidity. Lots of paprika/ white pepper flavour and good texture. Drink now – 2012.
    CE 18 | JP 15.5 | PdW 16 | TB 16.5 | FR 17

Also 4 Stars:

★ ★ ★ ★

  • Sonata 2009 (Waterstone) R28.62
  • Merwida 2010* R33
  • Conradie Family Vineyards 2010* R40
  • Kaapzicht 2010* R42
  • Villiera 2010* R43
  • Capaia 2010 R60
  • Villiera Tradition Bush Vine 2010 R60
  • Sir Lambert 2010* R70
  • Diemersdal Single Vineyard 2009 R71
  • Zevenwacht 360° 2009* R72
  • Buitenverwachting 2010 R75
  • Nitida 2010* R75
  • Rietvallei Limited Edition
  • Special Select 2009* R75
  • The Berrio 2008* R75
  • Rickety Bridge
  • Paulina’s Reserve 2009* R78
  • Vrede en Lust 2010* R79
  • Hermanuspietersfontein Nr 7 2010* R80
  • Steenberg HMS Rattlesnake 2010* R80
  • Tokara Reserve Collection
  • Elgin 2009* R80
  • Buitenverwachting Husseys Vlei 2009 R85
  • Spioenkop ‘1900’ 2010 R85
  • Kumkani Lanner Hill 2009
  • (the company of wine people) R99
  • Diemersdal Eight Rows 2010 R102
  • Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2009 R110
  • KWV The Mentors 2009 R110
  • KWV The Mentors Sauvignon Blanc
  • Semillon 2009 R110
  • Klein Constantia Perdeblokke
  • Limited Release 2009* R120

★ ★ ★ ✩

  • Diemersdal Matys 2010* R32
  • Table Bay 2010
  • (Ultra Liquors) ARP R34.99
  • Slowine 2010* (Villiersdorp) R35
  • Eikendal 2010* R41.50
  • Diemersdal 2010* R43
  • Under Oaks Limited Release 2010* R44
  • Goede Hoop 2010 R45
  • MAN Vintners 2010* R45
  • Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection 2010* R47
  • Nico Vermeulen
  • The Right White 2009* R48
  • Terra D’Aria 2009* R48
  • Bellingham Sauvignon Blanc with a dash
  • of Semillon 2009* (DGB) ARP R48.95
  • Le Bonheur 2010 R50
  • Uitkyk 2010* R50
  • Robertson Limited Release
  • Retreat 2009* R51.20
  • Ondine 2009 (Ormonde) R52
  • Zoetendal 2009* R55
  • Bloemendal Suider Terras 2009 R60
  • Boschendal 1685 2009 R65
  • Havana Hills 2009* R65
  • Paul Cluver 2010* R70
  • The Berrio 2009* R75
  • Delaire 2010* R79
  • Bartinney 2010 R80
  • Benguela Cove 2010* R82
  • Claime d’Or 2010* R85
  • Delaire Coastal Cuvée 2010* R85
  • Flagstone Free Run 2009*
  • (Constellation Wines SA) R86
  • Domaine Des Dieux 2009 R90
  • Strandveld 2009 R90
  • Fleur du Cap Unfiltered 2009* R93
  • Groote Post
  • Woolworths Reserve 2009 ARP R95
  • Lomond Pincushion 2010* R102
  • Bouchard Finlayson Reserve 2010 R106
  • Hermanuspietersfontein Nr 5 2009* R126
  • David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner 2010* R155

★ ★ ★

  • Rockfield 2010* (Du Preez Estate) R25
  • Riebeek 2010* R29
  • Swartland 2010* R29
  • Bonnievale 2010* R29.50
  • Wellington 2010* R30
  • Arniston Bay 2010*
  • (the company of wine people) R31
  • Du Toitskloof 2010* R31
  • Welmoed 2010*
  • (the company of wine people) R32
  • Ionstone 2009 (Kingsbridge) R34
  • Odd Bins
  • Bin 201 2010* (Checkers) ARP R34.99
  • Odd Bins
  • Bin 205 2010* (Checkers) ARP R34.99
  • Spier Signature 2010* R35
  • Bergsig 2010* R39
  • Klein Steenberg 2010* (Steenberg) R44
  • Neethlingshof 2010* R44
  • Nederburg
  • Winemaster’s Reserve 2010* R45
  • Allée Bleue 2009 R49
  • Cool Bay 2010* (Boplaas) R50
  • Tokara Zondernaam 2009* R50
  • Nederburg FIFA 2010* R54
  • Simonsig Sunbird 2010* R54
  • Welbedacht 2010*
  • (Schalk Burger & Sons) R55
  • Christina van Loveren 2010*
  • (Van Loveren) R55.33
  • First Sighting 2010* (Strandveld) R57
  • Sterhuis 2009 R60
  • Onyx 2009 (Darling Cellars) R62
  • Graham Beck 2010* R65
  • Havana Hills 2010* R65
  • Lady Anne Barnard 2010
  • (African Pride) ARP R65
  • Neethlingshof Single Vineyard 2010* R65
  • Hartenberg 2009 R67
  • Diemersdal Single Vineyard 2010 R71
  • Cool Bay Reserve 2009* (Boplaas) R75
  • Hidden Valley 2010* R75
  • La Vierge The Original Sin 2009 R75
  • Spier Private Collection 2009* R75
  • Bouchard Finlayson Walker Bay 2010 R78
  • Southern Right 2009 R79
  • Spier Woolworths ‘Lonely Blue Gum’
  • 2009 ARP R79
  • Durbanville Hills Rhinofi elds
  • Inner Valley 2009 R82
  • Durbanville Hills Rhinofi elds 2010 R82
  • Flagstone Free Run 2010*
  • (Constellation Wines SA) R86
  • Groot Constantia 2010 R86
  • Constantia Uitsig 2009* R90
  • Steenberg 2010* R90
  • Hermanuspietersfontein Nr 3 2010* R94
  • Grande Provence 2010* R95
  • Nederburg Manor House 2010 R97
  • Diemersdal Eight Rows 2009 R102
  • Klein Constantia 2010* R102
  • Spioenkop 2010 R110
  • Nitida Club Select 2010* R115
  • Shannon 2009 R118.55
  • Steenberg Reserve 2010 R180

★ ★ ✩

  • Obikwa 2010* ARP R23
  • Two Oceans 2010* ARP R23
  • Stettyn Millstone* 2010 R27.50
  • Eagle’s Cliff 2010* (New Cape Wines) R30
  • Hill and Dale 2010* (Stellenzicht) R30
  • Music by D’Aria 2010* R32
  • Bon Courage 2010* R35
  • Bergsig
  • Woolworths What? 2010* ARP R37
  • Zidela 2010 ARP R37
  • Alexanderfontein 2010* (Ormonde) R38
  • Thandi 2010* R39
  • Boland Five Climates 2010* R39.50
  • Darling Cellars Woolworths
  • Bush Vine 2010 ARP R39.95
  • Yonder Hill Y 2010* R40
  • Zonnebloem 2010* ARP R41.99
  • Thierry and Guy Fat Bastard 2010*
  • (Robertson Winery) R43.40
  • Pecan Stream 2010* R45
  • Rietvallei Classic Estate 2010* R45
  • Stellenzicht Golden Triangle 2010 R45
  • Kumkani 2009*
  • (the company of wine people) R54
  • Lomond 2010* R54
  • Signatures of Doolhof 2010* R54
  • KWV Reserve 2009* R56
  • Seidelberg 2010* R56.50
  • Indalo 2010 (Swartland) R57
  • La Motte 2010* R57
  • Kingsbridge 2009 R59
  • De Vallei 2010* R60
  • Fryer’s Cove Bay to Bay 2010* R60
  • Groote Post 2010* R62
  • Beau Joubert 2009* R65
  • Maastricht 2010* R65
  • Meerendal 2010* R65
  • KWV Cathedral Cellar 2009 R66
  • Zonnebloem Limited Edition 2010 ARP R66
  • Tierhoek 2009 R67.50
  • Thelema 2010* R70
  • Nitida Woolworths
  • Limited Release 2010* ARP R74.50
  • Clos Malverne 2010 R76
  • Creation 2009* R79.50
  • Steenberg 2008 R80
  • Tokara Reserve
  • Collection Walker Bay 2009* R80
  • Buitenverwachting Husseys Vlei
  • 2010 R85
  • Cape Point Vineyards Woolworths Limited
  • Release 2009 ARP R89.95
  • Boschendal Reserve Collection 2009* R90
  • Mulderbosch 2008 R90
  • Mulderbosch 2009 R90
  • Bellngham The Bernard Series Oaked
  • 2007* (DGB) ARP R95
  • Louis 2010* R95
  • Warwick Professor Black 2010* R95
  • Iona 2010* R98
  • Fryer’s Cove Bamboes Bay 2010 R100
  • Lomond Sugarbush 2010* R102
  • The Goose 2009 R110
  • Groot Constantia
  • Gouverneurs Reserve 2009 R113
  • Greyling Family Reserve 2010 ARP R149.50

★ ★

  • Robertson Winery 2010* R25.40
  • Spier Woolworths
  • Light Low Alcohol 2010* ARP R29.95
  • Du Preez Private Cellar 2010* R30
  • Koelenbosch 2010* (Koelenhof) R32.50
  • Leopard’s Leap 2010* ARP R34.99
  • Bergsig Woolworths
  • Tell It Like It Is 2010* ARP R37
  • Excelsior 2010* R38.50
  • Bergsig Woolworths
  • Longmarket Wet Rock 2010 ARP R39
  • Alvi’s Drift 2010* R39.99
  • Boland 2009 R46
  • Hazendal 2010 R47
  • Du Toitskloof Reserve 2010* R51
  • KC 2009* (Klein Constantia) R53
  • Miravel 2010* R55
  • Mooiplaas 2010 R55
  • Rickety Bridge 2010* R58
  • Blue Grove Hill 2009 (Capaia) R60
  • Elgin Vintners 5th Edition 2009* R65
  • Hillcrest 2009* R70
  • Elgin Valley 2008* R75
  • Rustenberg 2010* R75
  • Sumaridge 2009* R75
  • Seven Steps 2009 R80
  • Southern Right 2010 R83
  • Oak Valley 2009* R85
  • Durbanville Hills
  • Rhinofi elds Outer Valley 2009 R86
  • Fleur du Cap Unfiltered
  • Limited Release 2010* R93
  • Fryer’s Cove Bamboes Bay 2009 R100
  • Waterford 2009 R100
  • Durbanville Hills Biesjes Craal 2010 R107

  • Major’s Hill 2010 R34.40
  • Bon Courage Three Rivers 2009 R35
  • Douglas Green 2010* (DGB) ARP R35.99
  • Linton Park Private Bin 177 2010 R38.50
  • Altydgedacht 2010* R50
  • Zevenwacht 2010* R53
  • Sophie Te’Blanche 2010 (Iona) R55
  • Whalehaven 2010* R60
  • Elgin Vintners 6th Edition 2010* R65
  • Creation 2010 R79.50
  • Domaine Des Dieux 2008 R90
  • Fleur du Cap Unfiltered 2010* R93

Five Sauvignon Blancs tasted did not receive a Star rating.

PRICES: wines in each quality grouping are listed in order of ascending price – all ex-cellar unless otherwise stipulated.

ARP – Approximate retail price

* – Bottled under screwcap