Cape Winemakers Guild – on the up

Our very own Cathy Marston, visited the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction. Find out what she had to say.

27 Aug 2015
events, wine,review

If there is one tasting which I would always do blind, it would be the annual tasting of the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction wines. I cannot see how it would be possible not to let your respect and admiration for this group of most of the best winemakers in the country who have done so much for the industry, cloud your judgement and affect your opinion on these wines. Add in the fact that most of them are charming and beguiling raconteurs of note and I can see myself easily voting for wines about which I might otherwise have had my doubts.

So tasting the line-up blind last week was, as always, interesting and instructive. Last year, I was disappointed with the reds finding them over-ripe and overdone and I was far more impressed with this year’s efforts with most wines being better balanced and having reined-in the alcohol. Of the larger selections, Chardonnay and Shiraz were fairly universally-excellent whilst in niche categories, I enjoyed all the MCC’s very much indeed and would buy them all instantly, as well as 2 out of the 3 Pinotages (Beyerskloof and Kanonkop), confirming my belief that people who still think the variety is stuck in the bad old days of a decade ago need to catch a serious wake-up.  

I tried very hard not to find out too much about the wines beforehand, but I couldn’t avoid seeing that Adi Badenhorst’s Muscat de Frontignan 2013 was causing a stir. As a category, I tend to avoid natural wines, finding many faulty and dirty and I had heard accusations of both leveled at this wine. I don’t think it was either – sure it was cloudy and a bit dull in the glass, but it packs in layers and layers of flavour (perfume, litchis, confected peachy notes) and lingered in the mouth in an enigmatic teasing fashion which intrigued and interested. Would I buy it? No, I don’t think so. Would I drink it? With great cheese and much pleasure.

Most people seem to have entered 2 wines for the Auction and there were several cases when I really enjoyed both entries – the Hartenberg Merlot and Shiraz, the Jordan Chardonnay and Sophia, the Miles Mossop Chenin and Tokara Cabernet  – but I found both wines from Duncan Savage (one under his own name and one under Cape Point) to be outstanding. I’m a sucker for a good white Bordeaux blend anyway and the Cape Point Vineyards Auction White 2014 is beautifully-integrated already and sensitively oaked with lots of time to come. The Savage Wines Follow the Line 2013 Rhône Blend was just delicious, exuding juiciness and loveliness from every pore. Not the biggest fan of either Grenache or Cinsault on their own, I’ve clearly been waiting for them to be combined with Shiraz and sensitivity before I started to wax lyrical as I am with this wine.

Other great wines – the Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2013 is outstanding with wonderful Northern Rhône-like perfume, pepper and spice, and I also enjoyed Cederberg Shiraz 2012 as well. Bruce Jack’s The Drift Barbera 2013 is very New World and very interesting (I think you should get a free lamb chop with every bottle – can’t remember a wine making me so hungry!) and I thought  Andrea Mullineux’s Semillon Gris was much better this year than last. Chardonnays by Ataraxia, Paul Cluver, Bouchard Finlayson and Waterford were all lovely and the red blends from Ernie Els and Rust en Vrede were polished and classic with lots to like here.

Disappointments? Pinot Noir I’m afraid. There was one which frankly had no place in any line-up of wines made for drinking (my note reads ‘shit and strawberries’) and there was only one or two I enjoyed. I wasn’t crazy about most of the Bordeaux red blends and straight Cabernets either although there were a couple of great examples in both categories. And although it is a category which I normally love (even though it definitely needs to be called Cape White Blends), neither of the Mediterranean White Blends blew me away.
The Cape Winemakers Guild Auction takes place on Saturday 3rd October at Spier Conference Centre. For more information, go to

- Cathy Marston

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