Introducing Shannon Vineyards Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Situated high on the western rim of the cool-climate Elgin Valley and owned by James and Stuart Downes, Shannon Vineyards produce three highly-acclaimed site-specific wines, all with names taken from geographical features along the mountain range above the vineyards. One of the three is the Shannon Vineyards Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc.

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, and James Downes is extremely happy with the 2016 Sanctuary Peak.


Tasting notes: The supremely elegant, multi-layered Shannon Vineyards Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc is beautifully poised with the Sauvignon’s zesty acidity and vibrancy balanced by a 10% component of barrel-fermented Semillon (wild ferment and three months in new French oak) adding richer notes, a fuller mouth feel and complexity to the wine, making the wine approachable at an earlier age whilst also ensuring a great backbone for ageing potential. Distinctive primary fruit aromas of citrus, pear, white peach and blackcurrant, with a touch of fynbos and a flinty mineral lift, follow onto an expansive yet refined palate exhibiting excellent fruit purity and a juicy texture with enduring length.

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.

Retail price: Shannon Vineyards Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2016 retails nationally between R115 and R125.

In the vineyards: The 4.3-hectare sauvignon blanc vineyard comprises seven different blocks, all planted to different clones and offering 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 cellar: The grapes are chilled to 3ºC. The bunches are sorted on a conveyor, de-stemmed and crushed. All transfers of grape must and juice in these early stages are attained using gravity. Selected parcels of the grapes undergo a period of skin contact, at 8ºC to encapture favourable skin flavours. After a gentle pressing, the juice is left to settle for a period of 72 hours at 2ºC. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks continues at 12ºC until the wine is dry. The 10% blended Semillon is fermented on natural yeasts and matured for 3 months in 100% new French oak and bâtonnage (lees stirring) practised fortnightly. The wine 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 becomes more evolved and will continue to drink beautifully for another 5 years at least.


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. The Shannon Vineyards team is passionate about maximising the potential of the Elgin Valley through the wines of Shannon Vineyards.


James Downes runs the farm with meticulous attention to detail and dedication to impeccable viticulture principles, ensuring the ultimate expression of their unique terroir in their wines. 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).


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.


  • Shannon Vineyards Mount Bullet Merlot
  • Shannon Vineyards Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir
  • Shannon Vineyards Semillon
  • Shannon Vineyards Mascushla Pinot Noir Late Harvest

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

Tel: 021 859 2491



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