The Shannon Vineyards Sanctuary Peak (2014) is a distinctive Sauvignon Blanc: Elegant, chic, and pretty cool!

Located in the picturesque Elgin Valley and owned by James and Stuart Downes, Shannon Vineyards have released the 2014 vintage of their highly acclaimed site-specific Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc.

The Elgin Valley is the coolest wine-growing area along South Africa’s south coast, where cooling south-easterly breezes and chilly summer nights allow for slow ripening and the development of intense fruit flavours. Shannon Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc expresses the highly-acclaimed Elgin elegance, minerality, good natural acidity and purity of fruit from the exceptional cool-climate setting, and brings its own unique contribution to the Elgin wine renaissance in terms of: the excellent quality of its vineyards; meticulous viticulture practices that ensure the ultimate expression of their unique terroir in their wines; and a passionate and dedicated team who deliver on excellence in the vineyards and the cellar.

Ever since the release of the maiden 2008 vintage, the Shannon Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc has garnered widespread praise and shown itself as a wine to be reckoned with. This commendation includes: every vintage to date having been awarded 4½ stars in the Platter’s guide, several nominations for Platter’s 5 star rating, and scores above the venerable 90 point barrier from various highly regarded local and international wine critics including our very own Christian Eedes, the UK’s Tom Cannavan and Stephen Tanzer, American publisher of the International Wine Cellar, who referred to the Sanctuary Peak as “A lot of sauvignon blanc for the price–and one to seek out”.

All seven vintages of the Shannon Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc to date have included an 11% -15% component of barrel-fermented Semillon, delivering a fuller mouth-feel, contributing to a fleshier mid-palate and adding to the complexity of the wine.

With the release of the 2010 vintage of the Sauvignon Blanc, the name of wine, together with Shannon Vineyards’ two red wines, became site-specific, reflecting geographical features along the mountain range above the respective vineyards, namely Shannon Vineyards Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc, Mount Bullet Merlot and Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir.


Commenting on the 2014 vintage, James Downes says, “From early on this vintage has shown beautifully. The season produced a slightly smaller crop which has resulted in a more concentrated wine. The balance and integration has harmonized early and the wine is delivering generous fruit driven aromatics with a broader palate as the 11% of barrel fermented Semillon blended in rounds off the acidity and thus makes the wine approachable at an earlier age whilst also ensuring a great backbone for ageing potential.”

Tasting notes
The supremely elegant, multi-layered and consistently excellent Shannon Vineyards Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc is beautifully poised with the Sauvignon’s zesty acidity and vibrancy balanced by the richer notes and breadth of the Semillon. This is a Sauvignon Blanc that makes an immediate impact with a powerful bouquet packed with citrus, gooseberry, tropical fruit, asparagus and green pepper with a touch of spice and a flinty mineral lift. The wine has excellent fruit purity and a juicy texture, revealing more depth as the wine opens up in the glass. It has lovely structure and enduring length, leaving no part of the palate untouched, and is vinified in a style that enhances the aging potential of Sauvignon Blanc, with plenty of flavour and structure for the long haul.

In its first year the blend of this wine allows expression as a typical Sauvignon Blanc, but with bottle age it will become more evolved and should continue to drink beautifully for another 5 years at least.

Retail price
Shannon Vineyards Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2014 retails nationally for around R105.

Food pairing
This food-friendly wine is a perfect match for sushi, tempura prawns or seared tuna. It will also pair well with a spicy chicken salad and even matches up well to a touch of curry.

In the vineyards and the cellar
The 4.3-hectare sauvignon blanc vineyards comprise seven different blocks, all planted to different clones, which all offer something different to the final blend. The Sauvignon Blanc is planted predominately in sandstone soils rich in mineral quartz crystals with a deep underlying clay base, which have a low vigour potential. The canopies are managed to create riper flavours but still ensure the minerality found in the terroir. The small component of Semillon in the Sanctuary Peak comes from a half-hectare block on the farm where the grapes are picked riper to add a richness and complexity to the wine. In the 2014 vintage, the 11% blended-in Semillon was fermented on natural yeasts and matured for 3 months in 100% new French oak, with bâtonnage (lees stirring) carried out fortnightly.


The farm’s vineyards, situated hard up against the Koeël Mountains, are in the ‘table cloth’ zone of the ‘Black Southeaster’ which blows relentlessly in the summer months, lowering day- and night-time temperatures. Down below, the Palmiet River, the farm’s eastern boundary, creates the cooling ‘morning mist effect’ caused by cold mountain water flowing in overnight. This cooling effect is beautifully portrayed by the swirling design of the Shannon Vineyards logo and is captured on Shannon Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wine labels honouring its contribution to the farm’s unique terroir.


James Downes runs the farm with meticulous attention to detail and dedication to impeccable viticulture principles. His brother, Stuart, is the very experienced marketing arm of the Shannon team. Winemaking is in the very capable hands of Gordon and Nadia Newton Johnson of Newton Johnson Vineyards’ fame, with whom the Downes Brothers have a long friendship and a ten-harvest relationship. Meticulous attention in the vineyards continues into the multi-level cellar in the Upper-Hemel-en-Aarde Valley which makes use of all the latest gravitational engineering principles and grape-sorting techniques, ensuring that the grapes benefit from minimal handling throughout the winemaking process. It is this close working relationship between the Newton Johnson family and Downes brothers over the years that has made this journey so successful.


The name Shannon Vineyards pays homage to the Irish ancestry of the Downes brothers. Their paternal forefathers, the Shannon and Downes families, hailed from County Cork, Ireland. On their mother’s side, the James family were wine merchants and former owners of the White Horse Pub (1882) in Parsons Green, the City Arms (in the City of London), the Rising Sun (Battersea) and the Marlborough (Chelsea).


Shannon Vineyards also produce two other highly acclaimed site-specific wines and a unique pinot noir noble late harvest:

· Shannon Vineyards Mount Bullet 2011, retailing for around R285;
· Shannon Vineyards Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir 2013, retailing for about R250;
· Shannon Vineyards Mascushla Pinot Noir Late Harvest 2012, retailing at about R185 for a 375ml bottle.

Shannon Vineyards is open for wine-tasting by appointment only.

Website: www.shannonwines.com

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