ALISTAIR GIBSON: Cape wine tour highlighted the impact of climate change

The Project Sauvignon Blanc
The Project Sauvignon Blanc
2014 Clos de los-siete

WINE: Alistair Gibson on World Malbec Day

Asparagus with duck egg en cocotte

RECIPE: Asparagus to impress your guests, with Lawrence Murphy 

I’ve just spent the last couple of weeks in the wine lands of the Western Cape, which is one of the most exciting wine regions in the world. 

I’m fortunate enough to have visited Cape Town many times but this trip really made me pause for thought, not just about this unbelievable beautifully wine region but about wine in general.

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

Cape Town is currently in the midst of a widely reported drought with severe water restrictions in place, which of course is not only affecting the local population but is having a huge impact on agriculture, including the wine industry.

The last year or so has seen some of the most challenging conditions imaginable in wine regions around the globe and this is beginning to have a huge impact on the volumes produced and of course subsequently prices.

The fledgling English wine industry suffered from very severe frosts last year, in France many regions suffered from not only frosts but then later in the growing season hailstones.

Spain experienced both frosts and later drought conditions, and then of course there are the current conditions in South Africa.

Indeed, there are very few regions that have not been affected with some challenging weather conditions.

As Johan Reyneke, of Reyneke Wines, pointed out to me at his farm, he is 'growing wine, not making wine', and this is a point that perhaps passes by many consumers as they pass through the wine aisles at their local supermarket.

This is probably not the place to discuss climate change but it is changing and this is going to, indeed already is, have an impact on agriculture, on food production and wine. Worth thinking about when you add your wine to your supermarket trolley perhaps?

Staying with the weather theme, spring is just about here and hopefully I brought some of that Cape sunshine back with me.

St George's Day is the official start of the English asparagus season, which is a great excuse to chill some sauvignon blanc.

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Cellar Selection, Marlborough (Majestic £11.99 or £9.49 if part of a mixed six) is classic Marlborough sauvignon blanc, made from selected vineyards in the region.

The nose literally bursts from the glass with lime, passion fruit, gooseberry and a touch of green pepper, followed by a fresh, crisp plate with zesty acidity and a nicely judged finish.

It's one of those wines that does exactly what you expect it to do, great with asparagus but also lovely with a crab or prawn salad. 

The Project Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Western Cape (Aldi £6.99) is made by two of South Africa’s most exciting young winemakers, Duncan Savage and Thys Louw and is brilliant value.

Imagine a wine that sits somewhere between the first wine and a more restrained, classic sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley, then this could be it.

There is some tropical fruit but also a nice touch of minerality and grapefruit and a nice fresh finish. Try this with a simple chicken salad.

Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail

alistair@hermitagecellars.co.uk.