Along with a few other lucky media, I tasted the 62 wines and spirit on offer at the 30th Cape Winemakers Guild Auction yesterday. This group of 45 of the top winemakers in SA collaborate on various projects throughout the year including the very successful Protégé Programme which mentors and supports young, previously-disadvantaged winemakers get a foothold in the industry.
Tasting the 62 wines yesterday was generally an enjoyable privilege – but not 100% so. It feels as if some people are trying too hard to make something so blockbuster and exciting and – crucially – to create sufficient point of difference from what they normally make, that they have lost their sense of balance. I found far too many of the reds to have too much new oak and too much over-ripe, sweet, jammy fruit – and this criticism is levelled at a couple of winemakers for whom I have enormous respect in their daily work.
My advice for buying the reds would be to tread carefully and taste everything beforehand. I see that some of my fellow wine writers have already published their favourites, some of which overlap with mine, some of which I thought were appalling. Caveat emptor and trust your own taste.
On the flip side, I thought that the whites were generally very good and very enjoyable. There were some stunning Chardonnays (one or two a little heavy with the oak) and all the Chenins were lovely. A well-made fizz, some great blends, an elegant Semillon and an unusual and understated Semillon Gris were enjoyable and Simonsig proves once again that Roussanne has a good future in the Cape.
The Auction pre-tastings will be held in Cape Town on 21 August and in Johannesburg on 27th August. Tickets cost R170 and are available from Webtickets. The Auction itself takes place on Saturday 4th October at Spier. For more details go to www.capewinemakersguild.com
My favourites in the order they were tasted
(there were others I enjoyed, but to a lesser degree):
Graham Beck Non Plus Ultra Cap Classique 2008
– having judged some awful MCCs the previous week, drinking this was a pleasure.
Cederberg Ghost Corner Semillon 2013
– grassy and lean but already evolving delicious, classical wax & lemon.
Cape Point Vineyards CWG Reserve White 2013
– classy and balanced with fragrant perfumes, green figs and lime.
Simonsig The Red Ox Roussanne/Chenin Blanc 2013
– lovely new-wave Cape White with peaches and honey. Needs food.
Teddy Hall Hendrik Biebouw Chenin Blanc Reserve 2012
– fresh and elegant, starting to show secondary flavours of honey and spice.
AA Badenhorst Kalmoesfontein Dassiekop Steen 2012
– rounded and balanced with tropical notes and endless finish.
Cape Chamonix CWG Reserve Chardonnay 2013, Paul Cluver Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2013, Jordan Chardonnay Auction Reserve 2013
– when these guys do Chardonnay, they do it really, really well indeed.
AA Badenhorst Kalmoesfontein Ramnasgras Cinsault 2012
– light, juicy, chewy, savoury. Deliciously fresh.
Paul Cluver Auction Selection Pinot Noir 2012
– red cherry fruit and supportive, rather than overwhelming, oak.
Waterford Estate CWG 2BB 2009
– Bordeaux-blend, upfront and in your face with plenty of time to come.
Grangehurst Auction Reserve 2009
– Bordeaux-blend, well-integrated fruit with a great, grippy tannic finish.
Rust en Vrede CWG Estate 2011
– mostly Bordeaux varieties with 30% Shiraz, juicy black-berried fruit with great backbone & length.
Neil Ellis Auction Reserve 2011
– Cab/Shiraz blend, cherry-choc nose with elegant tannins and well-integrated oak.
Vriesenhof Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
– savoury marmite notes but with enough black fruit to last a while longer.
Etienne Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve 2012
– clean, stewed black berries, cherries, currants with creamy vanilla finish.
Kanonkop CWG Pinotage 2008
– savoury nose with soft, ripe but elegant flavours and velvet tannins. Class act.
Boplaas 1880 Ox Wagon Reserve 8 YO Potstill Brandy
– toasty apricots and citrus peel. Smooth alcohol and nutty/almond finish.
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