THE second vintage of Diemersdal estate’s The Journal Sauvignon Blanc underscores this range’s commitment to showing the farm’s Durbanville terroir through classic, old-school styles of winemaking. The just-released The Journal Sauvignon Blanc 2020, following the maiden 2019 version introduced last year, is made from a single vineyard planted with vines of between 28 and 38 years old. The wine was fermented in barrel, after which it spent 11 months in new and second fill oak, the barrels specially made in France and Austria for Sauvignon Blanc ageing.
Apart from Sauvignon Blanc, Diemersdal’s The Journal wine range consists of a Pinotage and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
The pedigree of The Journal Sauvignon Blanc and its site-specific terroir and winemaking style was established with the 2019 vintage which was awarded a 5-star rating in the 2021 Platter’s Wine Guide. As Diemersdal owner-winemaker Thys Louw (pictured above) would have it, the wine is a nod to the grape variety’s classic pedigree, that found in the cellars of Sancerre, France – the ancestral home of Sauvignon Blanc.
“It gives me a great kick knowing we are working with a variety the wine consumer loves and which is one of the most successful commercial varieties in the world,” he says. “The audience is there – now it is up to us winemakers to perform.”
The Journal Sauvignon Blanc was conceptualised in 2019 during a whirl-wind visit to Marlborough in New Zealand where Thys was selected to represent South Africa at the International Celebration of Sauvignon Blanc.
“Spending a week with Sauvignon Blanc makers from France, Austria, New Zealand and America inspired me to attempt a next-level Diemersdal wine,” he says. “With The Journal I wanted to make a wine from the farm’s finest Sauvignon Blanc site representing the best Durbanville is capable of. For the classic touch, the wine was to be oaked. And not just as an afterthought. We used a substantial component of new French oak barrels, including some premium Stockinger vessels from Austria, which are absolutely incredible in bringing out complexity and depth in white wine.”
A great terroir-driven wine. New wood. And added to the recipe, another nod to Sancerre. “During the nine months in barrel, the wine was kept at a cold 9°C, as I have seen the vignerons do in France with Sauvignon Blanc. This cold maturation adds another dimension, slowly coaxing the flavours and keeping the taste profile restrained and classic. While the wood helps in giving the wine a complex mouthfeel, the fresh, brightness of Sauvignon Blanc is still present, but it lingers and impresses with deft palate-weight.”
Thys says The Journal Sauvignon Blanc 2020 reflects a vintage that will go down as one of those years in which the winemakers saw it all. “There was a magnificent growing season due to the cool, mild conditions during the spring and early summer of 2019,” he says. “This led to even bud-break, flowering and bunch formation. The weather, however, took another turn during Christmas when Durbanville looked as if it had been hit by one of those famous winter Cape Cold Fronts, with cold temperatures, grey skies and rain. Fortunately, canopy-management and other preventative measures kept the vineyards disease-free, the rain cooling the soil and freshening the plants.”
Once harvest got under way early in January, temperatures climbed, with some unexpected intermittent patches of rain. But from mid-January Diemersdal experienced a true Cape summer: sun, warm weather and a brush of south-easterly wind – which is ideal in freshening the vineyards.
Despite the variance in temperatures, Diemersdal’s crop showed even-ripening. “This has a lot to do with the estate’s vines being unirrigated, dryland plants being better suited to handle the dry conditions to which the Cape has been subjected over the past few years,” he says.
The 2020 vintage of The Journal is characterised by opulence of Sauvignon Blanc varietal expression, with refinement and elegance. “The quality of that vintage played right into my hands in making The Journal Sauvignon Blanc,” says Thys. “Barrel-fermentation and 11 months in new and second-fill barrels kept the fruit and elegance in the wine as well as adding layer-upon-layer of complexity. I have been working intimately with Sauvignon Blanc for over 25 years know. But when I taste a wine like The Journal 2020, I know that this variety will never cease to amaze me.”
Diemersdal The Journal Sauvignon Blanc is available at a recommended retail price of R225 a bottle.