It’s not easy to write a summation of the CWG wines for 2014 without being slightly negative, especially considering the recent surge in the quality of South Africa’s top wines….

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It’s not easy to write a summation of the CWG wines for 2014 without being slightly negative, especially considering the recent surge in the quality of South Africa’s top wines. So I have kept that to the end and will start immediately with my top wine at the auction. Paul Cluver ‘The Wagon Trail’ Chardonnay, made by Andries Burger, is near perfect. These 28-year-old vines have delivered surreal depth and texture, with deft oaking and an acidity that defines its structure and creates a comet-tail-like finish. It is chiselled, pure and racy with just enough Burgundian character to please the pundits. With Kershaw and Almenkerk not far behind, could Elgin be the future for Chardonnay?

The CWG highlights come from the exciting new wave of winemakers that, thankfully, are aiming for purity and poise over power and weight. Duncan Savage’s Cape Point Reserve shows how perfectly ripe Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon can create an exotic, textured and classy wine outside Bordeaux. It will easily age a decade. Gottfried Mocke’s recently bottled Cape Chamonix Chardonnay is slightly closed at this stage, but its nervous texture, depth and length promise lots of excitement ahead. Finally, Andrea Mullineux’s debut Semillion Gris is more like an orchestral performance than a rock show. It has hauntingly fine and layered aromatics and is unlike any other wine on the auction. It could easily be overlooked when compared to the many wines that rely on primary fruit and fermentation aromas. These top wines showed so much more tension and intrigue than the reds on auction.

I can’t fail to mention the stalwarts of the CWG that please the public with class year after year. Gary Jordan’s Chardonnay is lush, lavish and limey, with a sampling of their supremely balanced 2008 showing just how well it ages. David Trafford, Neil Ellis and Etienne le Riche all offered finely tuned reds that are leaner than five years ago, seemingly with less oak, alcohol and sweetness. The knock-out red, however, was the Waterford 2BB from the once-in-lifetime 2009 vintage. It has a towering structure with new-world purity, combined with savoury, Bordeaux-like tannins. It is massively long on the palate and should age forever.

Marc Kent’s Boekenhoutskloof Syrah is a wine that stands in both schools. The Porseleinberg component reflects the raw and rocky grit of Riebeek Kasteel and its revolutionary styling; the Wellington portion is modern, suave and comforting, providing a superb Western Cape Syrah blend. This could reach the highest price ever on auction!

The Chenin Blancs somehow didn’t shine the way we all expected. But kudos to Kaapzicht, Simonsig and Kleine Zalze, all using old Stellenbosch vines and aiming for texture and depth over oak and sweetness. It was pleasing to hear two of the senior Stellenbosch members talk about how they have been engaging with the senior Swartland winemakers in dealing with old vines and winemaking sans new oak.

But the general style and quality of the wines on offer does not represent the pinnacle of South African wine. In a world seeking sense of place, expression of vineyard, elegance and balance, far too many of the wines rely on winemaking techniques and overripe fruit. These ‘over-made’ wines are often powerful and impressive when young, but lack tension and freshness, and don’t age with grace. Tasting a few of the vintage wines on offer on the day, few offered the depth and complexity one would expect from the crème of ‘the most exciting wine country in the world today’ – as many international critics have suggested. New oak, residual sugar, jammy fruit and high alcohol are rarely found in South Africa’s most exciting wines.

PS. The quirkiest and coolest wine of the show was Rianie Strydom’s Triple 7 Pinot Noir from Napier. Not profound nor one for the cellar, it offers strikingly Burgundian notes, with a beautifully pure, cherry-laced palate. It is honest and delicious!

– Roland Peens, Director of Wine Cellar

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Roland’s Top 5
• Paul Cluver ‘The Wagon Trail’ Chardonnay 2013
• Mullineux ‘The Gris’ Semillon 2013
• Cape Chamonix CWG Reserve Chardonnay 2013
• Cape Point Vineyards CWG Reserve White 2013
• Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Auction Reserve 2012 tied with Waterford’s 2BB 2009

James Pietersen’s Top 5
• Cape Chamonix CWG Reserve Chardonnay 2013
• Mullineux ‘The Gris’ Semillon 2013
• Cape Point Vineyards CWG Reserve White 2013
• Groot Constantia Auction Reserve Shiraz 2011
• Paul Cluver ‘The Wagon Trail’ Chardonnay 2013

David Brice’s Top 5
• Mullineux ‘The Gris’ Semillon 2013
• Cape Chamonix CWG Reserve Chardonnay 2013
• Paul Cluver ‘The Wagon Trail’ Chardonnay 2013
• Vriesenhof Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
• Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2011 tied with Neil Ellis Auction Reserve 2011

Debi van Flymen (CWM)’s Top 5
• Mullineux ‘The Gris’ Semillon 2013
• Etienne le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve 2012
• De Trafford Perspective 2012
• Cape Point Vineyards CWG Reserve White 2013
• Boplaas 1880 Ox Wagon Reserve 8 Year Potstill Brandy

Meet the Wine Cellar team here.

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