Sauvignon Blanc vintage fit for ‘First Lady of Warwick’
WINE is generally assumed to be a male-dominated industry, but women have been busting this myth since at least the 17th century as land owners and farmers, from the Cape winelands to the hallowed cellars of Champagne.
Jump to the modern era – where a decade or two ago the number of women winemakers could be counted on the fingers of one hand
Now you’ll need several more digits to count up the women in the ranks of winemakers and viticulturists, as well as sommeliers, Cape Wine Masters (the 100 CWM’s are almost equally split between men and women) and growing numbers of women studying winemaking at Stellenbosch or Elsenburg.
Many of these women have South Africa’s “first lady of wine” Norma Ratcliffe to thank for blazing the trail as one of the country’s first female winemakers.
The matriarch of Warwick in Stellenbosch – where she and husband Stan started planting grapes in the ’60s and she has been head winemaker since the late ’70s – Ratcliffe was the first woman to join the invitation-only Cape Winemakers’ Guild and its first woman chair.
Ratcliffe has played a key role in the Guild’s Protégé Programme, which mentors aspiring viticulturists and winemakers from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of them women. With De Morgenzon’s Wendy Appelbaum, she founded the Women in Wine Exchange to offer networking and support to women in the industry. No wonder then that ladies feature strongly in the Warwick branding and wine range – from Norma’s first “official” wine, The Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon released in 1984 and still made today, through to the Three Cape Ladies blend and the outstanding White Lady Chardonnay.
The First Lady range honours her pioneering role in the wine industry, and Warwick has recently renamed its popular Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc to the First Lady, rounding out the range which also features a rosé, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Winemakers all over the Western Cape are bragging about this year’s sauvignon blanc vintage as their best ever, and the just-released 2017 First Lady Sauvignon Blanc surely belongs in that category.
It just delivers on every level – an explosive, layered fruity nose leads into super fresh tropical fruit finely balanced with zingy acidity and a hint of minerality.
It’s complex but fresh and easy-drinking – making it a must-have summer wine on its own or with the best of summery food.
Professor Black’s fans will surely embrace its new identity (especially in the First Lady’s slightly lower price bracket, at the same quality level it’s always been known for).
And the good news is that Warwick winemaker Nic van Aarde is reinventing the good Professor as a more sophisticated sauv-semillon blend with a touch of oak – look forward to that launch mid-2018.
The First Lady wines deliver great value in the R70-R90 bracket, but here’s a heads-up for the week ahead: the four First Ladies are going to be on a seriously good weekend special at Preston’s stores from this Thursday August 31. You heard it here first!
FOR THE LOVE OF COOKING: Hendrik and Thea Swart, of the Fish River Diner, are delighted that their eatery was the only one from the Eastern Cape to reach the finals of the Coca-Cola Food Fest. The couple’s popular restaurant next to the Fish River Sun won the gourmet category of the semi-final in Durban last Saturday. They now join other finalists at a cook-off in Johannesburg next Saturday. The competition also had categories for ‘On the Go’ and traditional meals. Fish River Diner’s food was chosen by the semi-final judges out of more than 3 500 restaurant entries
SUMMER CELEBRATION: Fresh, crispy, fruity Warwick First Lady Sauvignon Blanc 2017 is a perfect partner to summery foods like soft salmon tacos with ‘groovy guacamole’.