Steenberg Round Label Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Tasting Notes
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Steenberg “Round Label” Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Tasting Notes

At two grams of residual sugar per liter, the Steenberg Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc qualifies as clearly dry, but the excellent level of fruit ripeness had me guessing. Steenberg is South Africa's oldest wine property, with antecedents dating back to the original Dutch settlers of the Cape in the seventeenth century. The modern era of Steenberg dates from the 1990s, when the property was carefully redeveloped into a 50,000 case a year winery. Steenberg also operates a five-star resort hotel with one of the finest golf courses in South Africa.

The Steenberg “Round Label” wines are popularly priced at $9 or less. The wine brings a number of fine elements to the glass. On the nose the mineral aspect of the wine is immediately apparent—stone with a little petrol—and this is nicely melded with some peach, orange, floral and fragrant grassy notes.

The wine really shines as a refresher on the palate because it combines solid acidity with excellent body and mouth feel. It has quality fruit—lime, tangerine, mango and a hint of banana—but the fruit stands back and allows floral and mineral to persevere into a mellow but satisfying finish.

Fermented entirely in stainless steel, the Round Label is direct and refreshing and yet an impressive stylistic effort that matches the land and the climate with the grape. That golf course also sounds like an excellent example of enlightened land-use, particularly if some of this wine is waiting at the nineteenth hole.


Verdict: Clarity
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Wine will always be churned out, labeled and pushed on the public—particularly with easy-to-drink grapes like the Sauvignon Blanc—but quality and care usually rise to the top.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

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