The 2011 Vintage: First Releases from Chile and South Africa

We recently tasted the first releases of the Southern Hemisphere’s 2011 vintage to arrive in the States. We’ll be tasting a lot more on our upcoming trip to South Africa and will report on them later.

The 2011 vintage was one of extreme weather conditions in South Africa with heat waves and exceptionally dry, warm weather during harvest. Skilled winemaking minimized the adverse weather effects, but some wines have a riper character than normal. In Chile the weather conditions were more benign with a long cold spring that reduced yields, followed by a long, slow growing season that produced phenolically ripe fruit.


Peñalolén 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley ($12) 88
The 2011 Peñalolen Sauvignon Blanc has assertive and spicy nettles and sage on the nose, but it also shows generous lemon and lime citrus and green bean flavors on the palate. It needs to be paired with food carefully as it could overpower subtly prepared seafood. Importer: Global Vineyard Importers, Berkeley, CA

William Cole Vineyards 2011 Albamar Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley ($11) 87+
Citrus and green grass show on the nose and palate along with chalky minerals on a persistent finish. This is a fairly neutral wine that would go well with a large number of dishes. The grapes are grown in one of Chile’s premier coastal valleys. Importer: Global Vineyard Importers, Berkeley, CA


Beau Joubert 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Stellenbosch ($15) 89
Pale platinum straw. This is an easy drinking wine showing flowers, juicy tropical fruit, and green pepper on the nose and a dry crisp palate. Very flavorful on both the palate and finish. Made from 24 year old vines of a single vineyard nestled in the Polkadraai Hills. Beau Joubert was founded by the French Hugenot immigrant Dirk Daniel Joubert. Importer: MetroWine, Stamford CT

Cederberg 2011 Chenin Blanc Cederberg ($19) 88+
The Cederberg Chenin Blanc shows an intriguing nose of nettles, mint and green apple—Sauvignon-like and not exactly what one would expect from Chenin Blanc. But the palate is more reserved with white stone fruit and tart apple flavors. The wine is cleanly made with a creamy palate from 5 months of lees contact and with vibrant acidity. Made from vines planted on Glenrosa and sandstone soil. Importer: World Premiere Wines, Mooresville, NC

Cederberg 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Cederberg ($15) 88
Pale straw in color, sage and kiwi show on the nose. The palate is ample and fruit rich with notes of honey, peach, grass and a hint of tarragon. The wine has a very long, fruity finish. Made from different clones grown on four different soil types, as described here. David Nieuwoudt is the winemaker; he’s a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild since 2005. Very good. Importer: World Premiere Wines, Mooresville, NC

De Grendel 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Cape of Good Hope Tygerberg ($16) 90
This is an elegant Sauvignon Blanc showing dried herbs, restrained citrus, and stony minerals on the nose. Abundant lime citrus, white stonefruit, and figs are beautifully knit together on a creamy palate that has a persistent, chalky finish. The De Grendel vineyards are 7 km from the Atlantic. Cape Winemaker’s Guild member Charles Hopkins leads the winemaking team. De Grendel is located just 20 minutes from Cape Town. Importer: MJM Imports, Lutherville MD

Raoul’s 2011 Jackals River Bots River ($15) 87+
This is an unusual blend of Chardonnay, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc with Chardonnay dominating the palate and Sauvignon Blanc making a surprise appearance on the finish. The wine is quite tropical in character, round with a slight sweetness in the mouth. Sebastian Beaumont is the winemaker. Importer: 34 South, Annapolis MD

Saxenburg 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Private Collection Stellenbosch ($16) 89
The Saxenburg Sauvignon Blanc reveals lime citrus and freshly cut grass on the nose. It offers generous flavors of fresh citrus and herbs on a nicely delineated palate, showing minerals and high natural acidity (6.7 g/l) on the finish. Made from low-yielding (5 tons/ha) vines and given extended lees contact. A family farm since 1693, German immigrant Joachim Sax planted the first vines here in 1701. Nico van der Merwe makes the wines today. The soils are gravel and clay. Importer: MJM Imports, Lutherville MD

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