This year’s Cape Winemakers Guild shows off a profound Cinsaut, an elegant Tinta Barocca, a remarkable Roussanne and a deft Demi-Sec Chenin, as well as two cheeky ‘off-cut’ blends. The eclectic mix includes the annual, solid offerings produced by the old guard that have built the Auction’s success. The tasting of 60 wines made me wonder what the senior members think of the nonchalant, and sometimes comical approach, that seems to have creeped into what was once a stern affair. The swath of new and relatively young members is shaking up the scene, allowing the new peer review system to be more encouraging of experimental, new-wave wines. The Guild is better for it and the 2017 basket is filled with wines for every palate, with quality at an all-time high.
What has changed? Alcohols seem lower, whether picked earlier or removed, there’s a palpable movement to more elegant wines. Less new oak, or at least better oak integration, more interesting cultivars and less obviously sweet and super-ripe wines. Tannin management in the reds has improved dramatically over the last decade; likely a combination of less virus in the vineyards, better farming and better winemaking.
Not only are there 2 varietal Cinsauts, but Cinsaut plays an important role in 4 of the blends on Auction. Ernie Els and Kaapzicht specifically, have blended the forgotten workhorse with their finest Cabernet to shadow the successful Cape Reds of the past; before Merlot and Pinotage took over in the 1980s. Cinsaut is back and it’s being taken more seriously than ever. Andrea Mullineux’s version from 80-yearpold Franschhoek vines is a game-changer with huge intensity, perfect structure and fine poise.
Tread carefully with the 2014 reds, admitted by a number of the members as a highly challenging vintage. As can be expected, most have handled the wet vintage well, producing softer wines that will reward earlier drinking. The full-bodied 2015 reds are difficult to taste at this stage. There is real consensus that this is the greatest vintage in modern times and the early release 2015s are extremely impressive. The huge tannins are coated by masses of fruit and balanced by a fresh acidity. Buy, buy, buy!
Broadly, 2016 was another difficult vintage and the Cape Whites seem to lack mid-palate and depth, while the reds are light and elegant. There are a handful of gems however, with Ataraxia shining through once again with striking purity and class. 2016 was certainly no slouch in the Hemel-en-Aarde as we have already seen with the early releases.
The CWG prices have tripled over the last 10 years and few wines will clock-in under the R1,000 mark, pushing them off the charts for most consumers. Many of the wines continue to be ‘souped-up’ versions of classic Cape wines available at half or a third of the price, often not for the better. Others offer a real unique opportunity to capture small cuvées from the best winemakers in South Africa. Either way, the CWG is finally mirroring the South African fine wine revolution!
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Roland Peens’ top 15:
1. Ataraxia Under The Gavel Chardonnay 2016 – 95 points
Often a standout wine, the 2016 is one of Kevin’s finest and most intriguing. Very classy, pure and tightly wound. It shows notes of white pear, nuts, limes and minerals over a slight reduction and firm acid backbone. Racy, deep and complex, it finally ends with a strikingly pure and long tail. Powerfully structured now, it will take a few years to open up. Chapeau!
2. Beaumont Family Wines Chenin Blanc Demi-Sec 2016 – 94 points
The nose offers hints of wet earth, mushrooms and spice. This wine is all about balance however, with sweet and elegant yellow fruits clothing a cracking acidity and savoury finish. Super tight and pure, it will age well for decade or more.
3. Delaire Graff Estate Banghoek Chardonnay 2016 – 94 points
One of the more powerful whites on show, but oh so complex and deep. Offering boiled oats, truffles, baked pear and hints of earth, it is ripe, sumptuous and yet tight and racy. Green apple freshness lines a super-long finish. Brilliant
4. Johan Joubert Wines Granite Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 94 points
Classic Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon from this tremendous vintage. Remarkably elegant, showing the best kind of leafy notes and refined, juicy fruit. Lovely acidity and fine tannins for the long haul.
5. Andrea Mullineux Leeu Passant Old Vines Cinsault 2015 – 94 points
Dense, poised, brooding, savoury and remarkably rich, this has to be one of the finest Cinsauts ever produced. Notes of dried herbs, a touch of smoke and liquorice hover over massively pure fruit. Sensational depth, with fine tannins and a classy finish. This profound Cinsaut should age forever.
6. Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Windansea Pinot Noir 2016 – 94 points
Black fruits, cassis and florals show a more broad-shouldered Pinot from Newton Johnson. Deep, sumptuous and exotic, there is once again beautiful purity and dense fruit, showing a riper, more generous side. Delicious.
7. Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Seadragon Pinot Noir 2015 – 94 points
Showing even better this year. A beautifully pure, floral and hauntingly beautiful Pinot with fine texture and amazing depth. Long, mineral fruit expression on the finish.
8. Tokara Tribute Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – 94 points
The very good 2013 vintage shines through in a sublimely balanced and refined offering. Powerful fruit, a touch of earth and lead pencil leads to an elegantly powerful, focused finish. Towering yet, supple and classy.
9. De Morgenzon Roussanne 2016 – 93 points
A cracking effort, showing a fine balance of salty austerity and deep tropical fruit. Pure, richly textured with a long mineral finish. Dramatic but elegant.
10. Ernie Els CWG 2015 – 93 points
A really classy, new direction for Ernie Els. The dollop of Cinsaut adds a perfumed nuance and elegance. Lovely balance of super-fine, dry tannins and pure, sweet fruit. Special.
11. Hartenberg Estate CWG Auction Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 93 points
More on the traditional side, this is a killer Cabernet Sauvignon from 2015. Tobacco, iron-like, cassis and earth nuances with powerfully rich fruit covering suave, plush tannins. Tempting now, this will age for decades.
12. Mullineux Trifecta Chenin Blanc 2014 – 93 points
An interesting and striking take on Chenin with 36 months elevage in barrel. The nose is earthy and savoury with time revealing purity and poise. Hugely rich palate, textured and complex.
13. Paul Cluver Auction Selection Pinot Noir 2015 – 93 points
Is this the best Pinot ever from Paul Cluver? Beautifully deep, finely tuned balance of red fruits and Burgundian-like savoury notes. Really fine, brooding and delicious with the structure to age.
14. Silverthorn Wines Big Dog III Méthode Cap Classique 2012 – 93 points
A regal bubbles with beautifully refined, savoury notes balanced by crisp fruit and structured palate. Fine, creamy and pure, it is rather youthful still, showing lots of opportunity for ageing.
15. Waterford Estate BB 2014 – 93 points
Of the more classical ilk, it offers notes of pencil shavings, wet earth, black fruits and cigar box. Like Bordeaux but with more obvious fruit. Long, elegant and extremely good for the vintage, it has the structure of long ageing.
Wines awarded 92 points
- Adi Badenhorst and Duncan Savage Love Boat White 2016
- Bartho Eksteen Vloekskoot Sauvignon Blanc – Wooded 2016
- Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Auction Reserve 2015
- Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2015
- Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Shiraz 2015
- De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2015
- De Trafford Perspective 2015
- De Morgenzon Gravitas 2015
- Etienne le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve 2014
- Gottfried Mocke Wine Projects Pinot Noir 2016
- Jordan CWG Chardonnay 2016
- Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2014
- Kanonkop CWG Pinotage 2015
- Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2016
- Rijk’s CWG Chenin Blanc 2015
- Rijk’s CWG Pinotage 2014
- Spier Auction Selection Frans K Smit 2013
- The Drift Farm Comfort Zone ‘Whole Bunch Tinta’ 2016
James Pietersen’s top 10:
1. Ataraxia Under The Gavel Chardonnay 2016
2. Beaumont Family Wines Chenin Blanc Demi-Sec 2016
3. Delaire Graff Estate Banghoek Chardonnay 2016
4. Johan Joubert Wines Granite Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
5. Andrea Mullineux Leeu Passant Old Vines Cinsault 2015
6. Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Seadragon Pinot Noir 2015
7. Tokara Tribute Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
8. Ernie Els CWG 2015
9. Adi Badenhorst and Duncan Savage Love Boat White 2016
10. De Morgenzon Gravitas 2015
David Brice’s top 10:
1. Silverthorn Big Dog III 2012
2. Newton Johnson Windansea Pinot 2016
3. Tokara Tribute Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
4. Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2015
5. Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2015
6. Johan Joubert Granite Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
7. De Trafford Perspective 2015
8. Nicky Versfeld Double Barrel Semillon 2016
9. Rijk’s Chenin Blanc 2015
10. Vriesenhof Pinot Noir Magnum 2015