With quotes like: “Don’t steal, rape, or murder – or make Pinotage” and “We need to separate admiration for the person from awe of the wine. I would much rather that critics dislike me and appreciate my wine than the other way around,” André van Rensburg remains one of South Africa’s most controversial, most successful and most scientific winemakers. André does not focus on awards and neither will I in this introduction, so let’s get on with how he makes Sauvignon blanc!

Harvesting of the 10 to 23 year old blocks took place earlier this year, with most of the grapes being harvested between 3 and 18 February. Harvesting usually starts with the young blocks during the second week of February. From the yield of 5.5 tonnes/hectare, 630 to 678 L of juice is obtained. The high quality of the fruit becomes evident from the fact that a pH above 3.2 is nowhere to be found in any of the settling tanks. Grape processing during crushing is minimised by up to 10% whole bunch pressing. Rapidase Expression (Oenobrands) is added during crushing while Novoclair (Novo) and PVPP is added at the settling tanks. André maintains that skin contact more than two hours is excessive, because ample “skin contact” happens during ripening. Cold settling at 5°C lasts for 48 to 96 hours and some tanks get additional lees rubbing for added aromatic complexity.

According to André, Anchor VIN 7 (Oenobrands) is the ultimate yeast for Sauvignon blanc fermentation. He sometimes supplements his favourite yeast with combinations of QA23 (Lallemand), Anchor Alchemy I and II (Oenobrands) and has even made red wine with VIN 7 in the past! Yeast is added (he does this himself) at 14 to 15°C. Temperature during the lag phase peaks at 17°C, but is then reduced to 12°C for a day after 2°Brix has been converted. After this the temperature is kept between 14 to 16°C and then held at 16°C when the sugar concentration is less than 5°Brix. Fermentation usually completes after 10 to 14 days, with residual sugar less than 2g/L. Nutrient additions are done at 20°Brix, 18°Brix and 15°Brix. He uses Fermaid K (Lallemand) and liquid ammonia (legal in South Africa) as yeast nutrients. Inactivated yeast cells are added during the second day of fermentation. As far as YAN’s go, every tank’s YAN is checked and then increased to  320mg/L. A typical YAN value prior to supplementation is 250mg/L. Ageing on yeast gross lees is done for four to six months and for the reserve, up to eight months. During the first two months, the wine is held at 20°C and stirred weekly for 30 minutes. Beta-glucanase enzyme from Novo is added to the lees after fermentation.

The wine is stabilised four to six months after fermentation, by careful addition of bentonite at a dosage of no more than 50g/hL. Bottling takes place August to September (October for the reserve) and is released for sale directly after bottling. The standard Savvy sells for $17 or £8.99 and the reserve for $25 or £15.

Bernard Mocke is a technical consultant for Anchor Wine Yeast.