It’s a long time since Grape came up with its list of the Cape’s Top 20 producers, as voted on by a few dozen wine judges, writers, sommeliers, and other professionals. We also asked for other things – like top wines in various categories, best newcomer, etc. We’ve done it three times, the last time in 2006, and I think it’s time it happened again, given the changing landscape. It was interesting previously to note which things changed and which stayed the same. For example, Veenwouden came in the top five on our first vote(in 2001), 20th on our second (in 2003) and nowhere in 2006. Cape Point Vineyards, Sadie Family and Rudera only put in an appearance in the third of the votes.
I know that my top 20 now would be different from what it was four years ago and I’m pretty sure that there will be some new entrants and some disappearances from the final list when we vote again, though I suspect the jostling at the top end will see many of the same names once more. Off course, the panel of voters changed to some extent each time, which makes some difference. In fact, it gets increasingly difficult to think of people who have a sufficiently good overview of the top end of a quickly changing industry to make useful votes. Hands up those who’ve tasted sufficiently across the range and across vintages of even, say, Rustenberg, Vergelegen and Cape Point to be able to be confident in a judgement about whether they deserve to be in a top five more than, say, Boekenhoutskloof, Sadie Family and Thelema? Let alone the relative newcomers…. Hopefully, if we have a large enough panel of reasonably experienced and trustworthy palates, we’ll get to a plausible list.
The reminder that it’s time to do this exercise again came because I was recently asked (no matter why) to give my Top Ten lists for red and white wines. It’s not easy at all, even if we were told to exclude wines that didn’t have a few vintages to establish something like a track record of excellence. And definitely nominating labels, rather than specific vintages. Five or six in each case were easy and definite inclusions (I won’t say which) – but there were a number of possibilities for the other slots, and I’m quite prepared to admit that someone will say: what about X? and I’d have to admit that X should really be there…. And one or two are minuscule releases – perhaps Mrs Kirsten Old Vines Chenin, for example, should be excluded on that basis, but without a prohibition, I was loath to exclude it.
But for what it’s worth, here are my lists (in alphabetical order – to rank them would drive me quite mad). So shoot me down. And watch this space for some listings based on a wider vote than just mine.
Top Ten Red
Kanonkop Paul Sauer
Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
Paul Cluver Seven Flags Pinot Noir
Quoin Rock Shiraz
Sadie Family Columella
Spice Route Malabar
Waterford The Jem
Top Ten White
Cape Point Isliedh
Chamonix Chardonnay Reserve
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay
Nederburg Ingenuity White
Sadie Family Mrs Kirsten Old Vines Chenin Blanc
Sadie Family Palladius