In South African Wine
on 08 Nov 13

One of my favorite memories from my 2011 trip to South Africa was my visit with then-winemaker Adam Mason at Klein Constantia. Mason makes stunning wines, and I particularly enjoyed the last vintage of Perdeblokke that I tried, which I believe was the 2009. Contantia is my absolute favorite region for sauvignon blanc in the world-–with apologies to New Zealand and the Loire, of course.

Klein Constantia Perdeblokke

"Perdeblok" means "horses' block"; according to Klein Constantia's website, vineyard workers in the 1980s gave this nickname to the steepest section of the vineyard, because it was too difficult for tractors to reach and required two Persheron horses to plough. In 2004, this 1.27-hectare, 224m-above-sea-level block produced a particularly memorable yield, and South African wine labels have been allowed to include single-vineyard designation since 2005, so the Perdeblokke vineyard has been a separate bottling (in high-quality years) ever since.

Perdeblokke initially shows little more than gravel and flint on the nose; green apple skin and quince, with a splash of fresh herbs, wash over the palate and resolve beautifully. As it opens up, its robust nose and mid palate emerge, revealing richer almond flavors.

In the first few sips I thought this wine was so delicate and ever so refreshing that I’d almost avoid eating anything with it, but I did try it with a LaClare Farm Evalon cheese from Wisconsin and the pairing was spectacular, with the cheese's earthy, nutty rind bringing out the wine's richer notes but welcoming its bright citrus notes.

That said, unless you have an ideal cheese or perhaps a very delicate salad or fish pairing, I’m going to go ahead and say something I don’t often say: drink this wine by itself––but not alone. Open it as the beginning to a productive afternoon conversation, a fabulous homemade dinner, or a braai with loved ones, and if your companion's not a wine geek (or, if they are, kindly extrude them from the rock under which they've been residing before continuing) take the opportunity to mention that the wine currently blowing their minds is South African sauvignon blanc, and they'd do well to get to know it better.

Julia Burke reviews South African wine and writes about social justice, the South African wine industry, and her own adventures in winemaking.