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Southern sauvignon blanc test match

In the lead-up to the All Blacks/Springboks test match in Queensland this Saturday, New Zealand and South Africa held Southern Sauvignon Blanc “test match” in Cape Town this week.

South Africa put in a superb showing in the final rounds, winning the competition with an average score of 90.4/100pts to the Kiwis’ 89.4/100.

It was New Zealand, however, that produced the top-scoring wines of the day with Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2020 and Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc 2020 topping the scoresheets with ratings of 93.4/100 and 93/100 respectively.

South African winery Stark-Conde from Stellenbosch put in the best showing by a Cape wine with a commendable 92.8/100.

Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc reigned supreme at Southern Sauvignon Blanc ‘Test Match’.

The idea for the taste-off was devised by Emile Joubert, wine scribe and rugby lover from Cape Town, and Erica Crawford, passionate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc producer.

Like our shared passion for rugby, New Zealand and South Africa have a proud history of winemaking with both countries recognised as leading producers of Sauvignon Blanc, one of the world’s most popular white wines. 

Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas and his panel selected ten Kiwi Sauvignons to represent New Zealand, ranging from the classic crisp and zesty Sauvignons that Marlborough is known for, to more textured and elegant styles, as well as a few that got thorough winemaker treatment of oak, lees contact and alternate fermentation vessels.

According to Crawford, the competition is about celebrating the strong sporting and cultural links between our two countries and our wine-making styles, and to have a bit of fun along the way.

“With 268m litres of Sauvignon Blanc produced in New Zealand in 2021, South Africa makes about a third of the volume of Sauvignon that we do,” says Crawford. “But what it lacks in size of production, the Cape makes up in quality. The winemakers are smart and innovative, and the Cape has a diversity of terroir that comes to the fore in the wines. It has been really interesting to see how ten of our best Sauvignon Blancs compete with what South Africa is currently doing and of course I’m delighted to see two New Zealand wines take out the top scores.”

Joubert says that when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc and a wine country in general, New Zealand’s story is miraculous.

“Until the 1980s nobody had heard of New Zealand as a wine producer – rugby and sheep were the dominant associations,” says Joubert. “Today New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most well-known varietals across the world and it has put New Zealand wine on the map. South Africa’s wine legacy might be much older than that of New Zealand, but in terms of profile and commercial success, the Kiwis currently lead the way.”

All wines were judged from the 2020 vintage by a panel led by Winnie Bowman, Cape Wine Master, and a well-known South African and international wine judge.

“This has been a fantastic match-up between two great winemaking countries. Both nations have played a role in establishing New World Sauvignon Blanc as an internationally successful wine category due to the delicious profile of the wines made from this variety.

“For any country making Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand is a real force to be reckoned with as your nation has made the category your own,” says Bowman.

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