Sensational Sauvignon, but can you tell where it’s from?

WHAT APPEALS most about the Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run is how it affects the senses. Kinda obvious, right?! Over the past 10 years this has become one of South Africa’s Sauvignon Blanc benchmarks, one of the three most consistent top performers in this category together with Steenberg Reserve and Cederberg – no fewer than eight highly rated vintages in succession, including the 2012 released a few months back. However this is also one of the most interesting wines when it comes to tracking the origin of the country’s best Sauvignon grapes – it’s not just a case of looking at the bottle.

Pheasants’ Run was named after the farm called Fisantekraal (gathering of pheasants) in Durbanville where the fruit for the maiden vintage was sourced from, but a lot has changed since then… Until recently, the bottle carried a label depicting the Graham Beck cellar in Robertson, and yet these days the grapes come from Firgrove in Somerset West and Groenekloof in Darling, with the wine made in Franschhoek. The front label on a bottle of 2012 Pheasants’ Run shows a vineyard in the ward of Groenekloof with the Atlantic Ocean in the background, but there’s no way of knowing this without doing some research. Apart from the name of the country, the only places in South Africa that are mentioned on any of the labels are Robertson, the home of Graham Beck Wines, and “Coastal Region”, which covers a whole bunch of districts and wards including a couple that are nowhere near the sea.

In fact, the places that the grapes come from to make the top Sauvignons are often quite different to where the cellars are. The Cederberg and Steenberg (Tokai) wines are made from fruit grown on the respective farms, as are the Sauvignons from Cape Point in Noordhoek, Diemersdal in Durbanville, Lomond near Gansbaai in Cape Agulhas and Vergelegen in Somerset West. However, besides the Graham Beck example, other outstanding Sauvignons made from bought-in grapes include the Fleur du Cap Unfiltered (Bergkelder winery in Stellenbosch, vineyards in Darling and Cape Agulhas), the Kleine Zalze Family Reserve (winery in Stellenbosch, vineyards in Stellenbosch as well as Durbanville, Darling, Elim/Cape Agulhas and elsewhere), and the Nederburg Private Bin D234 (winery in Paarl, vineyard in Darling).

The producers’ tasting note for the 2012 Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run reads as follows: “Intense aromas of gooseberry, passion fruit, fresh asparagus and lime, complimented with a pleasant minerality and crisp acidity.” And according to the winemaker, Erika Obermeyer: “Pheasants’ Run reflects the very best of what a real Sauvignon Blanc is required to be – purity of fruit, lively acidity and freshness, but with a great mouthfeel and elegance to boot.”

Can’t wait to enjoy it again with Parma ham or char-grilled chicken!

Groenekloof, Darling, origin of many of the grapes used to make Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run

Click here for the top SA Sauvignon Blanc ratings over the past two years.