Notes on the 2016 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction wines

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Each year, one of the most anticipated events in the South African calendar is the Cape Winemakers Guild annual auction. Ad it’s coming up next weekend. Special lots of wines made by the Guild’s members are sold off, badged with the famous CWG auction label. These represent some of the Cape’s finest wines, and they fetch high prices.

Back in 1981, when the Cape Winemakers’ Guild was first formed, the South African wine scene was very different to how it is today. One of the founder members of the CWG, Kevin Arnold of Waterford Estate, recalls how the organization began as a way for isolated winemakers in the Cape to share knowledge and taste more widely. The inaugural meeting consisted of just five winemakers tasting through all Bordeaux five first growths. Since then, the CWG has grown, the South African wine industry has matured, and it is now a multifaceted winemakers’ association. As well as the high profile auction of CWG wines held each year, there are monthly meetings where the members get together and taste and discuss. And there’s also a mentoring aspect where young winemakers are helped along their journey by more experienced colleagues.

The auction wines are chosen in a blind-tasting format. Winemakers enter small, exclusive lots of wine and these are then entered. Once they have been accepted, they can only be sold at the auction, and the maximum quantity for the auction is 100 cases.

Particular strengths this year were Chardonnay and Shiraz. ‘For me collectively it is the best grouping of Chardonnays I have seen in the Auction,’ says Arnold. Boela Gerber thinks the strength of Shiraz is that it responds so well to the diversity of growing conditions found in the Cape.

I tasted through many of the auction wines, and these are my notes.

Graham Beck Wines Non Plus Ultra MCC 2008 Western Cape, South Africa
81% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Noir. Lovely depth here: has some toast and spice too. Very fine with ripe apple, peach and citrus as well as a nice spiciness. Generous but focused. 91/100

Ntida Swan Song Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Durbanville, South Africa
From Benhard Veller. Elegant grassy, pure, focused nose. Wild ferment with a portion in French oak. Lovely elegance and concentration here with real finesse and lovely subtle grassy green notes. It’s a beautiful grassy green, complemented by grapefruit and passionfruit. A lovely wine. 92/100

Cederberg Ghost Corner Semillon 2015 Elim, South Africa
From David Nieuwoudt. 13.5% alcohol. 8 h skin contact and 50% barrel fermented in one year old oak. Such a distinctive wine with a striking grassy, green nose and palate. Hints of blackcurrant and spice with citrus and herbs. So fresh and grassy with an almost saline edge. It’s a remarkable wine that some people will hate, but I really like it. 91/100

Mullineux Clairette Blanche 2015 Swartland, South Africa
From Andrea Mullineux. 40 year old dry farmed vineyard on Paardeberg granite. Delicate, lemony and pure with a hint of pear richness. Nice weight on the palate: quite refined and primary at the moment with hints of toast and wax. Pretty. Give it time. 91/100

Simonsig Mediterraneo 2015 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Johan Malan makes this. 66% Roussanne, 28% Grenache Blanc, 6% Verdelho. Seasoned French oak for fermentation. Complex, fresh and nutty with some ripe apple, some pear and nectarine with a rich texture and a bit of cedary oak, but it meshes really well with the flavours working in harmony. 90/100

Beaumont Family Wines ‘Morse Moer’ Chening Blanc 2015 Bot River, South Africa
From Sebastian Beaumont. Made from bulk-filtered solids, barrel fermented, naturally fermented. Amazing matchstick flintiness here, with a lovely mineral acidity. Fantastic precision and detail, with beautifully managed reduction alongside the spice, apples and pears with a lively citrus kick. So delightful and complex. 94/100

Waterford Estate ’88 Kept Aside Chardonnay 2015 Stellenbosch, South Africa
This is a vineyard selection from a corner on granite soil with no irrigation, almost 30 year old vines. Very fresh with complex notes of wax, grapefruit and herbs. Lovely texture here with some apple and pear character. Has lovely breadth and some understated minerality and power. Such good acidity. This is lovely. 93/100

Tokara Siberia Chardonnay 2015 Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa
Wild ferment, barrel-fermented (one third new). Unfiltered and unfined, and picked early with higher acidity. Full malolactic. Decomposed sandstone soils, giving perfume and vibrancy. Supple and focused with pear and white peach. Lovely texture with mineral undercurrents to the fruit. Textured and appealing with lovely precision here. 93/100

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Seadragon Pinot Noir 2015 Upper Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa
One hectare block that normally goes into the Family Pinot Noir, with no sulphur dioxide in the winemaking. From broken claystone in the granitic soil – a specific subplot of the vineyard. Fine, expressive, elegant slightly spicy refined red cherry and plum fruit. Has finesse, detail and texture. So delicious and pure with real refinement and a delicious sappy green edge. Such finesse. 95/100

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Gottfried Mocke Wine Projects Pinot Noir 2015 Coastal Region, South Africa
Wild ferment, 15% whole bunch, 50% new oak. A unique inland site at high altitude, between Villiersdorp and Worcester. In a small valley, Kaimansgaat. Incredibly aromatic spicy nose with ginger and herbs. Powerful, pure, grippy and youthful with a slight mintiness. Very tight and focused with some elegance but also bold, vivid red fruit character. Distinctive. 94/100

Groot Constantia Auction Shiraz 2014 Constantia, South Africa
Boela Gerber. This is from a gravel ridge. The focus is on perfume and elegance, says Boela. Aromatic, fresh and quite expressive with lovely blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Grippy and a bit minty on the palate with nice purity and balance. 91/100

Saronsberg Sneeusig Shiraz 2012 Tulbagh, South Africa
From Dewaldt Heyns. Sweet and intense with rich, spicy black cherry and blackberry fruit. Nice freshness allied to the ripeness, with lovely bold flavours and oak meshing well with the ripe fruit. Generous but balanced.

Strydom Family Wines The Expatriate Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2013 Stellenbosch, South Africa
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Shiraz. Slopes of the Helderberg. Lovely pure aromatics on the nose of sleek black fruits. Lovely elegant, supple black fruit on the palate with a bit of grip and sleek ripe fruit complemented by some spicy oak, which hides in the background. There’s lovely freshness to this wine, and fruit purity. Ripe but elegant. 93/100

Rust En Vrede CWG Auction Estate 2013 Stellenbosch, South Africa
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 5% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. From Coenie Snyman. This is 100% new oak, and you can taste it: it’s spicy and cedary with ripe black fruits. Bold, with a bit of heat from the 15% alcohol. Dense and spicy with a modern feel to it. Has a bit of freshness but it’s too international for me. 89/100

Jordan Sophia 2013 Stellenbosch, South Africa
56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc. From Gary Jordan. Supple and elegant with a lovely roundness to the blackcurrant and plum fruit. Ripe but balanced with a nice fine-grained, chalky tannic structure under the generous fruit. Lovely depth here; this should age nicely. 93/100

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Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2013 Stellenbosch, South Africa
From Abrie Breeslar, this comes from 28 year old vines in the Simonsberg. It’s 69% Cabernet Sauvignon with 17% Cabernet Franc and 14% Merlot. Fine, herb tinged raspberry and blackcurrant fruit nose. Has a lovely liqueur-like edge to the fruit. The palate is really pure with sleek red and black fruits backed up by good acidity and tannic structure. This should really age well. Juicy and grippy with lovely focus. 95/100

Etienne Le Riche Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Stellenbosch, South Africa
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Jonkershuik, aged in new oak. 14.7% alcohol. Generous, pure and silky with lovely ripe blackcurrant fruit. It’s ripe but has lovely balance with some grainy, chalky notes hiding under the ripe black fruits. Great concentration here and it ageing really nicely with the oak swallowed up by the fruit. 94/100

Hartenberg CWG Auction Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Stellenbosch, South Africa
From Carl Schultz. 70% new and 30% used oak for 21 months. Generous with a strong core of bright blackcurrant fruit. Tight and quite structured with lovely pure fruit. Great concentration and depth here. Hints of olive and herbs, too. Grippy finish suggests this has a way to go. 92/100

Beyerskloof Traildust Pinotage 2014 Stellenbosch, South Africa
From Beyers Truter. 14.7% alcohol, 20 months in new French oak. Powerful, grippy and spicy with firm tannins, good acidity and sweet, cedary new oak. A concentrated, tight wine of real intensity that’s primary and intense and need lots of time. 90/100

Boplaas Cape Auction Reserve 2009 Western Cape, South Africa
From Carel Nel. Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barocca, Sousão. Made in lagares. Ripe, sweet and concentrated with nice fresh blackberry and cherry fruit and some grip. There’s a warm spiciness here, and a hint of raisin. Quite delicious. 92/100

Paul Cluver Auction Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 Elgin, South Africa
From Andries Burger. Sweet, juicy cherry and plum fruit with some cedary notes. Grippy and structured with nice precision and some peppery characters. 91/100

Neil Ellis Insignium 2013 Stellenbosch, South Africa
From Neil Ellis. Supple, textured and juicy with nice sweet berry and black fruits with some grip and fine pepper characters. An elegant style. 90/100

Mullineux Trifecta Syrah 2013 Swartland, South Africa
Lovely meat and olive savouriness with some olive tapenade character alongside the ripe fruit. Raspberry and cherry with some mint. Fresh and elegant. 93/100

Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Reserve 2014 Western Cape, South Africa
From Marc Kent. Supple, fresh and focused. This is a very elegant style with some floral raspberry and black cherry fruit. Subtle meatiness and real finesse with some nice pepper notes. An elegant style. 94/100

Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2014 Stellenbosch, South Africa
From Jacques Boorman. Sweet liqueur-like cherry fruit nose. Ripe, supple and balanced with brightness to the raspberry and cherry fruit. A lovely wine in an elegant style. 93/100

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