Sometimes older can be better

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sauvignon lib REUTERS The warmer regions like Stellenbosch and Paarl are several weeks into harvest, but places like Elgin and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley are still relishing the quiet before the storm, waiting for the grapes to reach maturity.

Durban - South Africans are not known for ageing their sauvignon blancs. Typically we drink these wines in their release year and, with the new harvest under way, there are some people already calling for the 2013 vintage – a wine not yet in the bottles.

The warmer regions like Stellenbosch and Paarl are several weeks into harvest, but places like Elgin and the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley are still relishing the quiet before the storm, waiting for the grapes to reach maturity.

This is why there are a growing number of cool climate producers breaking the mould to bring aged sauvignons to the market. While it triggers education issues to taste wines that may be outside consumers’ comfort zones, the rewards far outweigh that inconvenience.

Iona Vineyards owner Andrew Gunn has often commented that South Africans should not be nervous of seeing older sauvignon blancs on the shelf if they are from cooler regions – something unreservedly brought home during a tasting earlier this week that lined up the Domaine des Dieux sauvignons from 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Each had scooped four-star ratings in the Platter wine guides, but to have tasted them blind would not have hinted at their age. They still reflected the pale colour of young wines, but had the richness that can be achieved by ageing.

Proprietor Sharon Parnell bought the farm in 2002, but it was not until 2011 that she saw her dreams fulfilled and finally released the full wine range. The first sauvignon blanc only came to the market in 2009, despite it being a 2007 vintage, and it still has maturity potential.

Other cool climate sauvignons that would be worthy of cellaring include Creation Wines (the current vintage is 2011), the Cederberg David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner, Spioenkop Wines (both the 1900 range and the Spioenkop Wines range) and The Berrio (either 2010 or 2011).

Making the decision to try older sauvignon blancs may be akin to pushing personal boundaries, but buying a wine is not committing to a life policy. It is only committing to four glasses of wine, and may open a new world. - The Mercury

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