The Cape Winemakers Guild Auction is an opportunity for wine buyers to get their hands on limited edition ‘one-off’ cuvées from some of the finest winemakers in South Africa. Michelin star chef Roger Jones attended the London Auction pre-tasting on behalf of The Buyer to find out where the smart money will be headed at the end of the month when the Auction will be held.
Winemakers Andries Burger, Kevin Grant, John Loubser, Kevin Arnold and many more are joined this year by Auction virgins Morne Vrey and Carl van der Merwe. Full tasting notes below.
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 regional 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.
Monday’s pre-tasting was hosted in the magnificent Sussex Cellar at Berry Bros & Rudd by four Cape Guild Members: Rianie Strydom (Strydom Family Wines), Niels Verburg (Luddite Wine), Carl Schultz (Hartenberg Estate) and Gary Jordan (Jordan Wine Estate).
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 email@example.com to get full information on telephone bidding or by proxy. The auction is on Saturday 30th September. 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 Wednesday 20th September.
So here is my pick of the wines on offer this year…
Only one MCC this year, maybe that’s because that too many of them were busy hiking round the South Downs and Hampshire plains looking for land, I note that Gary Jordan is the latest to enter the fore with the purchase of a beautiful site in East Sussex with a 10 year plan to evolve this with his team set to be involved in a double harvest every year. Pieter “Bubbles” Ferreira has also been seen digging behind the English hedgerows.
Big Dog III Method Cap Classique 2012, John Loubser, Silverthorn
I served the original Big Dog (2010) to a group of journalists last July at The Mamba Awards and it was a huge success, and the 2012 continues in the same level, producing a masterly sparkling wine that has sat on its lees for 52 months. Rich and complex but still shows all the delicate elegance of the Silverthorn style. Citrus, acacia honey, rich toasty brioche, crisp apple, marzipan, perfect delicate balance, a stunning sparkler.
John Loubser produces superb MCC wines at his Boutique winery in Robertson with labels such as Jewel Box and Green Man, he was in his early years assistant wine maker to Pieter Ferreira at Graham Beck and until recently (July 2017) MD at Steenberg, but together with his wife Karen is now 100% committed to Silverthorn.
Under the Gavel Chardonnay 2016, Kevin Grant, Ataraxia
Classic Kevin Grant style, restrained, seductive, complex, wet stone, precision, a beautiful wine to age. Made in Hemel-en-Aarde with a beautiful church-style wine visiting room.
CWG Chardonnay 2016, Gary Jordan, Jordan
Gary, who carries rocks in his trousers pockets wherever he goes, not to excite the ladies but to highlight his geologist background continues to produce perfect Chardonnays. I am a huge fan of his Nine Yards Chardy, but the Auction Series takes it to a new level. It’s a full richly flavoured wine, finely balanced with a lovely tropical nuance.
Banghoek Chardonnay 2016, Morne Vrey, Delaire Graff Estate
Roussanne 2016, Carl van der Merwe, DeMorgenzon
Carl is another auction virgin, and this is an outstanding, superlative 100% Roussanne that will evolve beautifully. Maybe I should not praise it too high, as I will be bidding for this! Luscious, concentrated, yellow stone fruit, clean crisp acidity, full of flavour, touch of spice, multi-layered.
CWG Pinotage 2014, Pierre Wahl, Rijk’s
Luscious full bodied Pinotage which has a lovely balance, purity and intensity without going into the dark side of Pinotage. Blueberries and bright ripe fruit, spiced, smoky, but well balanced. Pierre to me makes some of the finest Pinotage (and Chenin) in the cape.
CWG Traildust Pinotage 2015, Beyers Truter, Bayerskloof
Delicate and fine, good intensity of sweet blackberries, soft cedar, layered, hints of blackcurrant crumble, luscious finish, even though it is quite big there is a lovely fresh finish to this Pinotage.
Windandsea Pinot Noir 2016, Gordon Newton Johnson, Newton Johnson
A follow-up to the outstanding Seadragon Pinot Noir 2015, which is also back in the auction this year with a further 24 cases released, which will no doubt hit record prices. The Windandsea is not quite as superlative as the Seadragon but showcases why Newton Johnson is at the pinnacle of South African Pinot Noir making. The ability to have a wine that is both concentrated and delicate is a hard task and their wines evolve beautifully with age. I am a huge fan of this vineyard, so much so that they even make an own label Pinot Noir for myself.
Auction Selection Pinot Noir 2015, Andries Burger, Paul Cluver
Andries Burger is a previous Chairman of the CWG and both his Chardonnay and Pinot reach great prices at the auction. His Paul Cluver Estate Pinot Noir 2015 is rated as First Growth by Tim Atkin and is served on BA First Class, which was immensely enjoyable on my flight back from San Francisco recently. The Auction Selection Pinot has a lovely burst of fresh berries, great purity on the palate, fresh but complex, elegant but racey, a very fine wine.
CWG Auction Shiraz 2014, Carl Schultz, Hartenberg Estate
Pretty, perfumed, spiced nose, restrained, lovely purity, soft gentle spices, and clusters of small berries dance on the palate, beautiful elegant Shiraz. Have tried older vintages of this cuvée including the 2010 Reserve Shiraz.
Tribute Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Miles Mossop, Tokara
Miles who is the current Chair of the CWG is no longer at Tokara, now pursing his own label and dreams after 18 years at Tokara, so this is something of a collector’s item. Soft cocoa, cassis, chocolate on the palate, it is rich but textured, full but layered, happy to drink this now but it will only get better.
BB2014, Kevin Arnold, Waterford Estate
Classic Cabernet – savoury, spiced, cedar, liquorice, vibrant berries, soft plummy, lead pencil, a complete wine from the master.
‘Daisy’s Turn’ Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre 2014, Neils Verburg, Luddite
Bilberries awash on the palate giving it a lovely uplift, there are white currants too then Christmas spices, soft tannins, dark fruit evolve to give this a lovely balance. A pretty wine, named after his eldest daughter.
Rapscallion 2015, Louis Nel, Louis Nel Wines
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Shiraz. Classic Aussie blend, but how well does he do it, this is an outstanding blend that showcases how well these two grapes blend. Beautiful nose of wild berries, spices and cedar. On the palate it is a gentle giant caressing and tantalising your taste buds.
Drip Barrel Cabernet Franc 2015, Jeff Grier, Villiera
100% Cabernet Franc, and what a wine, lovely perfume on the nose, purity of liquorice, violets, berry, tobacco, spices, this then opens up on the palate to give a full bodied, ripe, lingering, precise wine.
There are many more wines I could highlight such as The Love Boat, both White and Red, a combination of Duncan Savage & Adi Badenhorst, or Andrea Mullineaux’s supreme Cinsault, or Abrie Beeslar’s CWG Paul Sauer but these guys will no doubt get plenty of the limelight.
In conclusion even if you do not buy these wines in auction, please search them out to try them as they are the pinnacle of South Africa’s current wine revolution.