The best of the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction 2016

A cachet of 52 rare collectors wines from South Africa goes under the hammer at the 32nd Cape Winemakers Guild Auction in October – the perfect opportunity to buy exclusive, one-off cuvées from some of the world’s best winemakers. The Buyer was there for an exclusive tasting of the best wines ‘in show’ and get the lowdown on what the Guild is trying to achieve.

A cachet of 52 rare collectors wines from South Africa goes under the hammer at the 32nd Cape Winemakers Guild Auction in October – the perfect opportunity to buy exclusive, one-off cuvées from some of the world’s best winemakers. The Buyer was there for an exclusive tasting of the best wines ‘in show’ and get the lowdown on what the Guild is trying to achieve.

mm By September 6, 2016
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Each wine at the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction is made as one-off cuvées. 

The Cape Winemakers Guild held their annual pre-auction tasting in London’s Berry Bros & Rudd tasting rooms, as a way of showcasing some of the finest and most bespoke winemaking in South Africa’s Cape, and also to spark interest in the auction itself that takes place on October 1.

Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Tasting 2016
The 48 members of the Cape Winemakers Guild

For wine buyers it is an opportunity to source totally unique cuvées, made especially for the Guild; for the winemakers involved it is an opportunity to experiment with blends, ageing, and different techniques which is part and parcel of what the Guild stands for.

Before 20 of the 52 wines selected for the tasting were presented, CWG’s chairman Miles Mossop, who is also the winemaker at Tokara, explained how for the past 34 years the Guild members have met to share knowledge, benchmark each other’s quality, improve winemaking and mentor upcoming winemakers.

Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Tasting 2016
The worst ever picture taken of… Miles Mossop CWG chairman

The Guild was formed during the apartheid era so that actually sharing wines brought back into the country during times when South Africans’ travel was restricted was a factor in the knowledge sharing.

The Guild was also set up to start an auction which sold 19 wines in its first year for less than the price of a bottle of water and last year posted record profits.

It has to be said that often top dollar is paid for these wines with a Kanonkop blend last year reaching over 2000 rand a bottle.

The wines are unique and hopefully innovative, and a maximum of 100 cases can be made by each winemaker, some to be sold at a later auction if desired. Increasingly demand is for wines with bottle age and, by the 20 tasted, it was fascinating trying the ones that were from older vintages.

Rianie Strydom from Strydom Family Wines, who was also in attendance, stressed the importance of experimenting without commercial pressure.

“It’s a real opportunity to try different things, to experiment, to see what works, to show older wines.”

Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Tasting 2016
Let battle commence

So what were the pick of the bunch?

Twenty wines were shown from two sparklings, sauvignon blanc, semillon, chenin blanc, chardonnay, white blends through to the reds – varietals of pinot noir, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and various blends. They were all of a very high standard but the ones that really stood out were as follows

Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Tasting 2016

Clairette Blanche, 2015, Mullineux

Like palomino, clairette was planted in the 1970s as a blending grape in South Africa, it’s a grape that has a lot of flavour in the skin. Very clear, dumb nose, but then such wonderful complexity on the palate. It has searing crab apple, herbal notes, texture and a lot of grip but not aggressively so. It has a nice rounded finish and a length that lasts forever. Apparently Andrea recommends it as a food wine but I would be very happy drinking it as an aperitif. Maybe not a whole bottle but more than one glass for sure.

Kept Aside Chardonnay, 2015, Waterford Estate

Light golden, unmistakable honey and lime nose, a beautifully clean expression of chardonnay. Notes of nuts and peach. Excellent balance, elegance and great length. The minerality shines through. The fruit here was selected from a single vineyard, underwent natural fermentation in 300l Burgundy barrels with malolactic fermentation prevented. No fining or filtration. 2015 is a great vintage for whites here.

Seadragon Pinot Noir 2015, Newton Johnson Family Vineyards

Light ruby and almost see-through, this has oodles of ripe redcurrant, good structure, texture and acidity with a superb dry finish. From one of the top pinot noir producers in South Africa, this has a real lean towards the Old World

Sneeusig Shiraz 2012, Saronsberg Cellar

Gorgeously inviting shiraz nose lures you into its dark depths of fresh, juicy black fruit. The mouthfeel is rounded and, although the tannins feel young they are unaggressive. A gorgeously long length follows. More Australian than Old World but nothing wrong with that, this is top class.

The Expatriate Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz 2013, Strydom Family Wines

Clever blending here (60/40) where the shiraz has been chosen for its fruit components rather than spiciness, so it is about a blend that works rather than a blend of varietal extremes. Lovely rich, slightly meaty and inviting nose (an expression of three different cabernet sauvignons) lots of ripe fruit and lots of new oak (the wine can handle it). I would drink this in 10 years time or, if drinking young, do as you would with a young Italian wine and temper the tannin with tomato and meat.

Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Tasting 2016

Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Etienne le Riche

This was my pick of the entire tasting and might see me make a bid. Interestingly it was the oldest vintage of the 20 wines and it showed that by a mile, it reminded me of an aged bottle of single varietal cabernet sauvignon from Boekenhoutskloof that I had last year – secondary characteristics to die for.

The nose is simply amazing, pure, pure blackcurrant fruit on the nose and palate. Generous mouthfeel but with a backbone of acidity there holding it together and daring you to keep some in the cellar for years to come. Worth getting out of bed today just to taste this.

Traildust Pinotage 2014, Beyerskloof

An old school pinotage that is “thicker than blood” according to winemaker Beyers Truter. Bush vines grown on free-draining gravel, this was clipped back so there is only one bunch of grapes per shoot giving the wine fantastic intensity and concentration. 20 months in 100% new oak.

Tasting-wise this wine was blood red, powerful nose of black fruit, cherries and cedar. Intense, deep flavours but not over-bearing or too rich. Does pinotage get better than this?

The Cape Winemakers Guild Auction 2016 is held on Saturday October 1. Bids can be made online, by phone, or in person. Go online for more information or contact the Guild here info@capewinemakersguild.com

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