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Noble cultivars make a noble blend?

Greg Sherwood

Is a blend of Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon just a marketing gimmick? Not according to wineanorak's South African-based columnist Greg Sherwood, who describes an interesting new project from Franschhoek.

When the enigmatic 'winegrower' Baron Achim Von Arnim of Haut Cabriere recently combined forces with ex-advertising mogul and owner of Mont Rochelle Mountain Vineyards, Graham de Villiers, something exciting was sure to be on the cards.

For those who do not know him, Baron Achim Von Arnim has been credited for pioneering and making famous the first South African Blanc de Noir blends over 15 years ago while heading up the wine making team at Boschendal winery in the Groot Drakenstein mountains of Franschhoek.

More recently, while wine maker at Haut Cabriere, Achim has blazed yet another trail for the 'cause' of the Chardonnay / Pinot Noir blend. One need only ask any number of restauranteurs, who are on strict allocation for this wine, about its quality and success and they will be sure to sing its praises.

And so, it seems it was only a matter of time before yet another wine innovation was brought to life. This time it is a blend simply called ‘Sauvignon Rouge’, which the wine making team at Graham de Villiers’ Franschhoek cellar Mont Rochelle claim to be the first Sauvignon Blanc / Cabernet Sauvignon blend of its kind produced in South Africa.

It is not a rose, but also not quite a red wine. Mont Rochelle’s new wine maker, Justin Hoy, who made the wine in consultation with master blender Achim, says it looks like a young pinot noir and describes the character 'as showing the tropical fruit and grassiness of Sauvignon Blanc, with the tannins, mouthfeel and berry complexity of unwooded Cabernet Sauvignon.'

The wine was launched in the Cape under a month ago and has already recorded sales beyond the producer’s 'best scenario' expectations. At the ‘up country’ launch in Johannesburg and Pretoria on the 18th and 19th April 2000, the wine and restaurant trade was introduced to this exciting new number.

Opening the presentation, Baron Achim Von Arnim proclaimed Sauvignon Rouge "to be a wine to make any occasion even more fun!" Furthermore, Achim and Graham believe the wine is a product that cannot fail, as it was not created to be an anomaly, an attention grabber, or a one night wonder, but rather a product to meet a specific ‘need’ identified in the market place.

The collaboration passes under the 'winery' name of Vignerons Du Monde (wine body of Franschhoek producers), and is labeled boldly, and proudly according to Achim, with the unmistakable red and white horns of the Von Arnim crest.

If Sauvignon Rouge’s image can be fine tuned to emanate even half the energy, excitement and passion that this wine making team brings together, then it is sure to be recorded as yet another industry success!

TASTING NOTES

Title: Vignerons Du Monde Sauvignon Rouge

Vintage:1999

Blend:  Sauvignon blanc / Cabernet Sauvignon - Producers have decided not to reveal percentages of blended components as the wine "was not made for serious analysis, but for enjoyment." Also, blend proportions are sure to change yearly depending on ripeness of overall vintage and pungency of the Sauvignon blanc Fruit. 12.5 % Alcohol.

Colour: Transparent dark ruby red, graduating to light, clear bright ruby and pink rim. Light depth of colour with attractive red glow. (Resembles youthful pinot noir of lighter vintage.)

Nose: Open, forthcoming, punctuated by grassiness and rich tropical fruits, which slowly retreat to reveal ripe red berries, cherries, raspberries and light pepper spice. Also a touch of red plum. Medium complex with overall juicy fruit appeal. No off odours.

Palate: 'White wine entry, red wine finish' was the general consensus of tasters. Mouthfeel and entry of medium to full-bodied sauvignon blanc, lending tropical fruit and grassy characters. Mid palate somewhat neutral. Juicy fruit, abundant acidity and soft delicate tannins on the finish. Once again, berry fruit dominated palate of cherries, raspberries, and some black currents. Medium to short aftertaste with slight spiciness discernable. Well balanced wine, well made wine.

Serving Suggestions: Serve chilled in an ice bucket over summer lunch or a light evening meal. Ideal with Mediterranean fish or seafood dishes, sushi, smoked salmon, chicken and lighter red meat dishes. Or good quaffer on its own.

Tasters Comments: Very well made, seamless blend, with unmistakable quality and know-how evident. Also, a very French feel about the wine, reminiscent of the Southern Rhone’s light reds or heavier roses of Gigondas, Lirac or Tavel. Friendly, fun wine that still manages to retain some complexity for its style. 1 to 2 bottles could effortlessly be consumed by 2 diners. Overall, enjoyable, early drinking wine despite tasters’ initial reservations (still far too many ill conceived sauvignon blanc based blends on the South Africa market, who’s components fight each other endlessly.) Although the first of its kind on the SA market, it would not be surprising to see 2 to 3 imitations for sale in a year or 2 if this specific product is successful. Distributor still to be appointed in the UK, but much initial interest has been shown. Could hit European shelves in 3rd Quarter 2000?

Score: Despite being an unfamiliar blend made in an easy, early drinking style, the seamless blending and overall feel of ripe, quality fruit and careful handling in the cellar, swayed tasters from 15 to 15 out of 20.

Market Prediction: Hit.
(Hit or Miss?)

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