Today, on his way to Heathrow to catch a flight to Cape Wine, our Michelin Star Editor pops into the wonderful Sussex Cellars at Berry Bros in St James’s to get his tastebuds in training by tasting through 47 of the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction wines that are ready for sale on Saturday, September 29. In this special sneak preview, Roger is putting his money on the whites this year.
Raats Family Wines’ Chenin Blanc was the star of the white flight but what of the other wines?
So what is the Cape Winemakers Guild and how does the Auction work?
The Guild was formed in 1982, and has evolved into a body of 49 members who jointly represent the cream of the South African wine industry. Membership is by invitation only to winemakers who have been responsible for producing outstanding wines for a minimum of five years and are active in the production of wine.
The main auction, together with select dinners and mini-auctions hosted from Hong Kong to Norway to London, raises money not only for charity but also for the support and development of the wine industry in South Africa through the Development Trust, Oenology Protégé Programme & Viticulture Protégé Programme.
However, just as important, the Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) helps to showcase the depth and breadth of superb Cape wines around the globe, with the auctioned wines not only becoming collectors masterpieces but often seen on the secondary auction scene.
So how were this year’s wines tasting?
The whites showed better than the reds on the whole offering a more restrained and elegant style, but there are certainly some reds that deserve applause.
Silverthorn Wines Big Dog IV MCC, 2013
A beautiful rich but restrained elegant sparkling that continues in his line of impressive Big Dogs. Winemaker John Loubser is a master at MCC and this wine shows his immense talents.
Simonsig Die Klusenaar Roussanne-Marsanne, 2016
Well balanced with nice acidity and freshness, on the palate it is long, succulent with bright white stone fruit. Elegance shines through.
Mullineux The Gris Semillon Old Vines, 2017
Andrea does it again with a pretty perfect wine; penetrating exciting flavours that are balanced and layered, this will age well, textured, silky, great purity, like it.
DeMorgenzon Grenache Blanc, 2017 & DeMorgenzon Roussanne, 2017
Both great wines showing how well these Southern Rhône grapes do in the Cape, the Roussanne is textbook in style with a bright, focused, first taste and a linear, focused mid-palate, with some restrained luscious stone fruit… flawless. The Grenache Blanc is forward, bright, textured, wet stone, sweet Turkish apricots, with a lovely depth of minute white peaches.
Rick’s Chenin Blanc, 2016
Wow this is a stunner! lovely purity, focused, taut, orange, melon, spiced, fresh exciting and focussed, a brilliant Chenin.
Raats Family Wines, Fountain Block Terroir Specific Chenin Blanc, 2017
My white wine of the flight, stunning, this is stupendously good, luxurious mouthfeel with a lingering but clean aftertaste.
Delaire Graff Estate Banghoek Chardonnay 2017
Refined elegance, a brooding wine that needs time but this wine will be excellent with its tiny clusters of precise fruit, slightly nutty tones and just a hint of pineapple.
And my verdict of the reds….
I found some of the reds over sweet, and the alcohol seemed to be showing on a few of them, and some were just too big. But there were many good wines on show including:
De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir, 2016
Certainly the more refined of the Pinots, although the Newton Johnson Windandsea Pinot 2017 was a close second. Refined elegance, very gentle but precise fruit, this is a dry, easy drinking, pleasurable Pinot.
Bartho Eksteen Professor, 2016
Fruit-driven, brambles, fresh and lively, elegant and gentle on the palate
Jordan Sophia, 2015
Francophile nose, beautifully balanced, layered, restrained elegance, this will age for years but already showing its class.
Hartenberg CWG Auction Shiraz, 2015
As it says on the bottle Shiraz it definitely is and like a Barossa bombshell, luscious and deep fruited, juicy and luxurious. Not for the faint-hearted but there is certainly a place for this style, especially with another 10 years of age.
Saronsberg CWG Shiraz Reserve, 2015
Touch of ‘brett’ in the Châteaux Rayas style; ripe and plummy, savoury and juicy, seems to have evolved quite quickly, hopefully with time it will get more elegant.
Rijk’s CWG Pinotage, 2015
My star of the reds, a hugely pleasurable Pinotage, sweet fruited but balanced, fresh, bright, luscious dark berries oozing in freshness.
Neil Ellis Wines Amber B Tempranillo, 2015
Wonderful restrained Tempranillo, fine tannins, fresh and textured, layered, this will age gracefully.
The wines that are auctioned are ‘one off’ and cannot be supplied in any other offering or sold commercially; they are made specifically for the CWG Auction and a strict guideline is followed with official CWG labels only released to a set amount of bottles. The labels carry the CWG label, but like the Barbarians Rugby team (where club socks are allowed) winemakers can add their own bottlenecks.
Many of these wines elevate South Africa to a serious level, and the prices that the wines reach are far more reflective of their worth than the current undervalued prices paid for the mainstream of Cape wines.
All sounds interesting. How do I get involved?
To bid for these wines you need to register at www.capewinemakersguild.com
Or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get full information on telephone bidding or by proxy. There is also a company called The Vineyard Connection who can arrange international delivery of these wines. You need to register your interest prior to 20th September.
The auction is at Spier in Stellenbosch as usual, on 29 September. Go to the CWG website for more details, including of various tasting opportunities