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Tasting notes from South Africa

text and photographs © 2010 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on South Africa 2010.


Certainly South Africa's most uniquely sited wine estate, Cape Point Vineyards only neighbour on the Cape Peninsula is the State Park that runs all the way down to Cape Point itself. Sited on the slopes of the famous Chapman's Peak, vines have been grown here for centuries, but it was extensive re-planting by owner Sybrand van der Spuy in 1996 that established the modern day operation.

This is a particularly cool area in viticultural terms, where a really hot day might hit 30ºC, whilst the thermometers in Stellenbosch are reading 40ºC. That has made Cape Point a leading exponent of Sauvignon Blanc, and their wines have subsequently been garnered with top scores and five-star awards from John Platter and others. Winemaker is a suitably Sauvignon-obsessed young Afrikaner called Duncan Savage (right), who spent four months working with Didier Dagueneau in the Loire and left with a determination to make not only top quality Sauvignon Blanc, but a profound expression of the grape.

Despite extensive travels through the best Sauvignon areas of France, Australia and New Zealand, Duncan says "I don't believe in working vintages overseas, because any monkey can clean a press or pump some wine. It's much more important to just spend some time with the great producers, trying to understand what makes them tick."

He certainly has a unique terroir to work with - the only producer on the Cape peninsula - and is pushing the envelope with his barrel-fermented, Graves-style Isliedh cuvée.

the wines

UK Agent is Yeo & Co. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Splattered Toad Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Nice lime peel note, a touch of sherbet, not overtly herbaceous. The palate has a clear, juicy acidity with ripe but crisp gooseberry fruit and lemony acidity. 86/100.

Cape Point Sauvignon Blanc 2008
All Cape Point fruit. Some herbaceous, but gently asparagus notes, more passionfruit and very ripe pear notes. The palate has lovely succulence with a juicy, lemony acidity. That grassy punch pushes through, keeping this lean and focused without being strident. 88/100.

Cape Point Isliedh 2008
Barrel fermented in 600 litre French oak, this is a single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc blend with a 18% Semillon. Very gently waxy and toasty, little seed notes. Lovely Sauvignon character. There are tiny floral nuances and lots of green herb nuances. The palate has lovely waxy lime leaf and lemon fruit, with constrained, restrained concentration. 91/100.

Cape Point Isliedh 2009
Big, bold, burnished orange notes are dramatic, with the waxy lemon fruitiness beneath and a smoky, almost mineral touch to Sauvignon's more punchy herbaceousness. The palate hints at greater ripeness than the 2008, with lovely acids keeping it subtle and composed. A lovely style for the future. 92-93/100.

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