Top 10 wines at the Cape Winemakers Guild

A list of Cathy Marston's favourites, and some she didn't like. Including great tasting notes.

by: Cathy Marston | 06 Sep 2012

Top 10 wines at the Cape Winemakers Guild, well according to me anyway!

The Cape Winemakers Guild is celebrating its 30th birthday this year – 30 years since some independent winemakers decided to get together to increase their buying clout, share their winemaking knowledge and improve the wine industry as a whole.

30 years on, their protégé programme is in full swing, educating the next generation of winemakers and the Guild organises a series of events throughout the year aimed at improving local winemaking knowledge and spreading the word about quality Cape wines around the world.

The 28th Cape Winemakers Guild Auction will be held this year on 6th October. Open to anyone who wants to attend (and if you can make it in person, you can bid online for the first time ever), it offers 52 wines made specifically and exclusively for the Auction by one of the Guild’s 45 members.

Over recent weeks, there have been public tastings in Cape Town and Johannesburg and I was lucky enough to be invited to join in the blind tasting event held at Nitida on Monday.

The Guild members are some of the most likeable, voluble and enthusiastic winemakers in the country, so although it’s always great to hear from them, it can affect how you taste the wines, so blind is best in this instance.

It was interesting to hear that of the 52 wines, 13 have been previously offered for sale on the Auction which could suggest that the wines are particularly age-worthy and have been deliberately held back. Or it could be that sales were not all the CWG members could have wished for on these lots.

Are these the best wines in SA?

It’s impossible to taste these wines without asking yourself “Are these the best wines in SA?” Certainly there were some very good wines in the line-up, but there are many other outstanding winemakers who are not members of the Guild, so it is impossible to ever class this list as the best SA can do. But the wines should definitely be up there, and to be honest, not all of them were.

Here are my notes on my top ten and then a few wines which I didn’t personally enjoy.

Saronsberg CWG Semillon 2008
Toasty notes with nuts, honey and ground ginger. Slow-starter on the palate but gains momentum, freshening acidity, long length.

Cederberg Ghost Corner Semillon 2011

Grassy nose with typical lanolin/waxy notes. Discreet oaking, creamy fresh finish – having had older versions of this wine, I’d say this is definitely one to keep.

Jordan Chardonnay Auction Reserve 2011
Is there ever a year that the Jordans don’t make good Chardonnay? Soft, honeyed nose with light floral notes. Nicely balanced between orange citrus fruit and creamy oak, nutty finish.

Neil Ellis Auction Reserve 2007
Classic flavours – black berries, vanilla, sweet wood spice – silky tannins, keeps interest right through to lengthy, positive finish.

De Trafford Perspective 2009
Equal quantities of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Merlot combine with baked meat savouriness on  nose giving way to intense black cherry fruit on the palate. Lots of promise here.

Ernie Els CWG 2010
Mainly Cab Sauv with Shiraz and Merlot, this is full of Shiraz perfume on the nose (salami, pepper and violets) with a powerful, pungent mouthful of dark black fruits, spice and charry tannins.

Grangehurst Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve 2006
Straight out of the Left Bank from one of SA’s most underrated winemakers. Cedar spice, blackcurrants, still incredibly fresh but layers starting to develop. Huge length, lots to come.

Groot Constantia CWG Shiraz 2009
I didn’t like this last year, but now it has evolved into a spicy mouthful of sweet red fruit (strawberries and plums) more reminiscent of Southern Rhône than the North. Long, slightly hot, length, very pleasant drinking.

Simonsig Heirloom Shiraz 2010
Fragrant violets and pepper on the nose with a little too much spicy oak for current drinking. But plenty of red and black fruit in there too. A modern, well-made wine which should last.

Kanonkop Pinotage 2010
Typical Pinotage with that ‘savoury hollowness’, polish and dark concentrated berried fruit. Lots of sweet, spiced oak and lengthy finish.

And just in the interests of balance, here are a couple of wines that were not to my taste – all from producers I normally enjoy. If you loved them - well, I guess that’s the beauty and diversity of wine!

Cape Point Vineyards Auction Reserve White 2011
It pains me to say this as I am usually a big fan, but I didn’t enjoy the overtly floral, almost confected tones of this wine. Tastes like a UK fruit salad chew.

Bouchard Finlayson Pinot Noir 2009
Again, normally I wine I enjoy but I found this particularly medicinal with too much spice and not enough fruit to support/flesh it out.

Etienne le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve 2009
This much mint has no place in a wine. If I wanted to chew on an Endearmint, I’d have bought a packet of those instead.


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