Break out the Berrio

August 16, 2005

I used to think that the Neil Ellis Groenkloof Sauvignon Blanc was the best I’ve ever tried. Flagstone’s ‘The Berrio’ Sauvignon Blanc might just claim that honour from now on. The vines are from one of the Cape’s coolest wine regions – Elim (see below for the story on this change). Astute WitP reader ‘Nicholas’ writes: “Elim is the southernmost wine ward in the Cape Agulhas district of Siuth Africa and is cooled by maritime breezes on three sides, giving the grapes more suntime on the vine before harvest”. Sounds like the perfect environment for Sauvignon Blanc.

As I’ve said before, South Africa provides the best combination of the zippy acidity of the Loire Valley and the sometimes overwhelming passion-fruit and asparagus wines of New Zealand. And the Berrio showed this off perfectly.

In the glass, it proved darker than I expected. Not in an oxidized way, but there was more gold than green in the glass – almost like a Chardonnay. The nose was nice and strong, with lots of herbal notes, and a surprising hint of earth instead of the typical mineral scent you’ll often find with Sauvignon Blanc. So far so good. I hadn’t even tasted it yet and I was already intrigued.

Taste? One word. Wow. This is a world-class wine. It’s one of the richest Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tried, with lots of complex flavours rolling around in there. I picked up some crisp herbs and tropical fruit right away. If I ate tropical fruit regularly, I could probably identify the exact fruit. But Winnipeg isn’t exactly the most balmy of climates, so forgive me for generalizing “tropical fruit”. I could be specific about canola flavours, or perhaps some nice winter wheat. But mangoes don’t grow around here, so my palate is a bit under-educated in that regard.

Anyways, the fruit and herbs were followed by an unexpected hit of smokiness and earth, which helped shift the flavour profile from the crisp to the creamy side of things. I kid you not. I’d expect smoke and earth from a South African red but not from a white like this. And it was very fine indeed. The finish was nice and long, and it rolled out in a wave of creamy citrus flavours.

It was hard not to just gulp the glass and look for more. I had to exercise a whole lot of restraint. After all, it was my wife’s birthday and I did buy her this bottle as a present. Guzzling her birthday present could lead to a long weekend of sleeping on the couch.

So forget New Zealand. I’m always impressed by what the Cape winemakers are doing with Sauvignon Blanc, and the folks at Flagstone have just raised the bar. You can drink your Cloudy Bay by the bucketful. No need to invite me, because I’m hitting the patio with a bottle of ‘The Berrio’ and a straw.

(Check this site out for some great Sauvignon Blanc talk)

Update: In case anyone in Winnipeg is interested, the ‘Berrio’ is available at the Kenaston Wine Market. No sticker shock! It’s worth the price!

 **Updated Update: Much embarrasment here in the ‘Peg. The Berrio is actually from Elim – not Elgin as I incorrectly stated. Thanks to an astute reader for the correction.


  1. where are the photos? wine, wine, wine has some great pictures.

    – the illerate whine drinkers

  2. BURN!

  3. Forget about the pictures, I go for the content and the links.

  4. Please note that The Berrio Sauvignon Blanc is from the Elim and not Elgin Wine of origin region. Elim is the southernmost wine ward in the Cape Agulhas district of Siuth Africa and is cooled by maritime breezes on three sides, giving the grapes more suntime on the vine before harvest.

  5. Thanks for the correction. I could have sworn it was Elgin, but I must have had Neil Ellis on the brain (their Elgin Sauvignon Blanc is available here).

    I’ll update the post to reflect this.

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