I’m not sure where spring went but summer is here! The sun is up early and sets late. The days are lovely and balmy. Of course with the heat of summer we need to stay hydrated, and along with the copious amount of water we drink, it is the season for refreshing drinks such as Gin & Tonic, sparkling wine and crisp white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc.
On this note, we have a beautiful new addition to our wine list – the Warwick “Professor Black” Sauvignon Blanc. Warwick is a well-established farm based in Stellenbosch and is owned by the Ratcliffe family. The question begs though, who is Professor Black?
Professor Malcolm “Blackie” Black was a pomologist (someone who studies and cultivates fruit trees) at the University of Stellenbosch. Peaches in South Africa would traditionally ripen during November and December when the Cape is very windy. The wind would damage the peach trees and the crop as branches would break and fruit would blow off. In the 1920’s the South African government tasked Professor Black with developing an early ripening peach hybrid to avoid this damage during harvest. Professor Black was successful in this venture and developed a peach which carries his name. A lucky side-effect of the Professor Black peach was that it would ripen a week to 10 days before South Africa’s other southern hemisphere competitors, therefore giving South Africa an advantage and allowing us to charge high prices for early season peaches on the export market to the northern hemisphere.
What has this got to do with wine, you may ask? The experimental plantings of Professor Black’s peaches were on a farm which eventually became Warwick wine estate. When peach prices dropped, Stan Ratcliffe ripped out the old peach orchard and in 1982 he planted Sauvignon Blanc. Hence the name for this Sauvignon Blanc, which was officially named in 1991, comes from a 1988 map of the farm which identified the vineyard block as Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc.
The Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc has always had a peach flavoured undertone and the Ratcliffe family has in the past commissioned the Department of Geology from the University of Cape Town as well as the Department of Agriculture from the University of Stellenbosch to do research into the soils to see if there is a link between the peach orchard which was previously planted and the flavour profile in the grapes, unfortunately there is no scientific evidence linking the two. But in the words of Norma Ratcliffe – “just because science doesn’t prove it, it doesn’t mean it’s not true, you just have to believe”.
Professor Black passed away in 1969, leaving behind his widow, Greta Black, once a great opera singer who toured most of Europe. Professor Black’s son, Philip, was also a Professor who worked as Professor of Economics at the University of Stellenbosch for a period. During the early 1990’s he served on the Economic Advisory Council of State President FW de Klerk and was also a member of the Committee for Economic Sciences of the Human Sciences Research Council and served a term in a part time capacity as Chief Economist at the department of Economic Development and Tourism of the Western Cape Government. Philip’s daughter, Franki, is currently a travel writer, but if you stayed at Londolozi towards the end of 2010, you may remember her as one of the Founder’s Camp Managers.
The Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is made from 96% Sauvignon Blanc with 4% Semillon added just to enhance the texture, give a rounder mouthfeel and assist with ageing. The grapes come predominantly from Warwick in Stellenbosch with the addition of some grapes from cooler climate areas Elim, Elgin and Walker Bay. It has a racy nose with lime zest, passion fruit, nectarine, spearmint, flint and fresh oregano, and is crisp on the palate with notes of kiwifruit, tropical fruit salad, and let’s not forget the peach, with a dry lingering finish.
A wine which pairs beautifully with seafood, most salads and the good old Sauvignon Blanc classic, tomato soup. But best of all, it pairs wonderfully with the summer heat; a great wine for all occasions, even if the occasion is simply sipping on a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc, in your garden or on your balcony, watching the sun set.