Last month I wrote about my Smuggler’s Boot range – why it’s called this and the reason for its creation. If you haven’t read it, take a look here. I’ll be adding more background on each wine over the coming weeks but I’d like to start with the Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend.
Back in 2017 I was keen to find grapes in the greater Cape South Coast region. For those unfamiliar with this area, it stretches from Elgin in the west to almost Mossel Bay in the east. The overriding feature of this region is that these vineyards are never that far from the coast but more importantly they are all cool climate, with Elgin being the coldest area, and Elim and the Hemel-en-Aarde being the next coolest. Having sourced from some of these areas for my co-project with Naked Wines in the UK, I was in the lucky position of being offered some grapes from some top sites in the Hemel-en-Aarde and Elim, as well as grapes from unique sites, including Sunday’s Glen, Lower Duivenhoks River and Klein River, all these housing one or possibly two vineyard sites in them. The potential was exciting!
The Sauvignon Semillon was a classic concept wine, whereby the Sauvignon Blanc was sourced from both Elgin and Elim, while the Semillon came from Elgin and Sunday’s Glen.
The Elim Sauvignon Blanc tends to have a saline, thyme and lemon edge whilst the Elgin Sauvignon offers juicy green apple, jasmine, elderflower and nettle. Both retain high natural acidities with a more linear profile. Semillon tends to be heavier in texture and softer in acidity, with orange slices and an appealing oily or waxy quality to it which has more breadth in the mid palate and better persistence. The Sunday’s Glen site tends to have more fullness as we can pick it later, while the Elgin site (whilst still picked later than other warmer Cape sites) is picked with lesser ripeness; the challenge being that Elgin’s rainfall tends to reduce many plots to rot before you know it!
Regarding the blend, a little background is needed. Often in cooler climates straight Sauvignon Blanc can be quite tart and lean, so the tendency is to add a small percentage of Semillon to the blend – this gives something to sooth the tartness and soften the wine but without giving too much of the inherent Semillon characters – after all it is usually sold as a straight Sauvignon Blanc (up to 15% of another grape variety is allowed in a blend internationally without having to reference it on the label). However, I was keen to move away from simply making a Sauvignon Blanc that has 5-10% Semillon added to it, and to rather create something more complex where the Semillon is allowed to fully share the stage with the Sauvignon Blanc. Thus the Smuggler’s Boot Sauvignon Blanc Semillon is an equal partnership of the two. Although this may change slightly year on year, the idea is to show how these two remarkable grape varieties can create something together that is truly exciting – a synergy – much in the same way as these blends do so well in the Pessac Léognan and Graves regions of Bordeaux.
With this background in mind, the experimenting began in the cellar. Taking the two grape varieties separately, I fermented most of each block of Sauvignon Blanc in tank, but because of the healthy state of the grapes (2017 was a drier year and thus there was little issue with rot) I was able to experiment with some wild fermentation on the Elim block. Equally, I put a small proportion of the Sauvignon Blanc in oak, about four barrels, which added a smoky, flintier, cut stone texture with a buchu/blackcurrant leaf flavour.
For the Semillon, I aged 70% in oak and 30% in breathable eggs (we call them Apollo Capsules). The oak was 40% new whilst the eggs had stave inserts to the tune of 20% new oak. The oak barrels give complexity, apricot tones and dried orange peel notes. The Sunday’s Glen portion gives noted rhenosterbos, character, and really lifted flowery notes.
Essentially as a blend the Sauvignon Blanc relies on its pronounced fruit flavours having lots of front but tending to fall away on the back palate making for a delicious yet more straightforward wine. The Semillon component gives breadth to the mid palate (broadening the more linear Sauvignon), and its softer acidity counters the higher crispness of the Sauvignon Blanc and gives better persistence to extend the aftertaste.
So, what does the final wine taste like? Light lotus yellow green in colour, the nose has pristine aromas of elderflower, Meyer lemon and mandarin segments. A clean, seamless palate with vibrant fruit definition balanced with a taut natural acidity, this linear structured wine unfurls to lime, rose and Forelle pear softened by a creamy texture, and lingers long after the first sip.
This wine has been described as a ‘Sauvignon Blanc for grown-ups” because it offers complexity, yet is still an easy-drinking wine that begs for leisurely sipping on a sunny summer’s day. I’ll be sharing my ideas for food pairings for this wine later in the week – so why not order some Smuggler’s Boot Sauvignon Blanc Semillon now!
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Click here for a downloadable wine information sheet for my 2017 Smuggler’s Boot Sauvignon Blanc Semillon