Perhaps I was just in a good mood, but I don’t think so: the standard of wines on offer at the forthcoming Cape Winemakers’ Guild Auction is remarkably high – on average much higher than I have ever noted before.
Previously, coming out of the blind tasting that the CWG offers some journalists and critics in Cape Town, it has usually been shaking my head with a combination of exasperation and exhaustion from the dozens of opaque, oaky, sweet-finishing, powerful reds that conclude the tasting. But this year I emerged feeling exhilarated.
There were some of the older-style reds there, a couple dreary and tiring and heavy, a couple of them very good examples of their type – as usual I would instance Saronsberg, where Dewaldt Heyns always manages to infuse a little freshness and grace into his great big shiraz. I still find too much ripeness and tiring, concentrated power (and sometimes alcoholic heat on the finish) in some of the reds.
But over-oaking was certainly not the sort of pervasive problem this year that is has been in the past, and that lessened the problem of bigness too. Strangely, the wine that I found most oppressively oaked was Rijk’s Chenin, a wine I have usually admired in the past, even without greatly enjoying it.
So the reds were much more of a pleasure, with many more examples that were outstanding, in all the categories, really, from pinot to pinotage. I’ve certainly never had so many high scores for red wines, and I’m less tempted than usual to put in more than my standard moan about how comparatively few whites there are (18 of the 50 table wines this year were white, not counting a port and a brandy, and that might in fact be a higher proportion than usual – right now I’m too tired to go and check).
As to scoring – I could have chosen not to score, I suppose, as I usually do. But this was a big, blind tasting, a format which has many problems already, so I included a score as a shorthand indication of my very rapid assessment of quality in unsuitable circumstances. I give them below. Below those, I also include all my notes (brief and inadequate, on the whole). I shouldn’t think many people will consult them, but, hey, I wrote them and have them, so why not offer them?
The point is, I will be envious of rich winelovers on Saturday 1 October 2016, from 9a.m onwards at Spier in Stellenbosch. They’ll be spoilt for choice. Out of my top scorers, which few would I choose to bid hard for, I wonder, if I could? The Boekenhoutskloof and Mullineux syrahs, probably, and the amazing Newton Johnson pinot, and I really loved the Simonsig Mediterraneo. And the Boplaas brandy. Perhaps the Sijnn /awa, but it would too irritating until I found out approximately how to pronounce its name.
For details about the Auction and the wines, go to the CWG website.
Scores out of 20 (in alphabetical order under the score)
- Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Auction Reserve 2014
- Jordan Chardonnay Auction Selection 2015
- Kaapzicht Estate Auction Selection 1947 Chenin Blanc 2015
- Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2013
- Mullineux Trifecta Syrah 2014
- Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Seadragon Pinot Noir 2015
- Simonsig Mediterraneo 2015
- Ataraxia Under the Gavel Chardonnay 2015
- Boplaas 1880 Ox Wagon Reserve 8 Year Potstill Brandy.
- Hartenberg CWG Auction Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
- Kanonkop CWG Pinotage 2014
- Nitida Swan Song Sauvignon Blanc 2015.
- Sijnn /awa 2014
- Strydom The Expatriate Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz 2013
- Tokara Siberia Chardonnay 2015
- Beaumont Moerse Moer Chenin Blanc 2015
- Boplaas Cape Vintage Auction Reserve 2009
- Cederberg Ghost Corner Semillon 2015
- Ernie Els CWG 2014
- Etienne le Riche Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
- Etienne le Riche Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
- Groot Constantia Auction Chardonnay 2015
- Groot Constantia Auction Shiraz 2014
- Jordan Sophia 2013
- Louis Nel Unobtanium Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz 2014
- Mullineux Clairette Blanche 2015
- Rijk’s CWG Pinotage 2013
- Saronsberg Sneeusig Shiraz 2012
- Silverthorn Big Dog II MCC 2011
- Teddy Hall Maria van Loon née Engelbrecht Shiraz Reserve 2015
- Vriesenhof Pinot Noir 2013
- Waterford ’88 Kept Aside Chardonnay 2015
- Beyerskloof Traildust Pinotage
- Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2013
- De Grendel Op de Berg Pinot Noir 2014
- Gottfried Mocke Wine Projects Pinot Noir 2015
- Graham Beck Non Plus Ultra MCC 2008
- Neil Ellis Insignium 2013
- Nicky Versfeld Double Barrel Semillon 2015
- Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2015
- Paul Cluver Auction Selection Pinot Noir 2014
- Saronsberg Die Erf SGMV 2011
- The Drift Farm Kindred Shiraz-Malbec-Barbera 2014
- Bartho Eksteen Vloekskoot Sauvignon Blanc 2015
- Edgebaston Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013
- Hartenberg CWG Auction Shiraz 2012
- Cederberg Teen die Hoog Shiraz 2014
- Luddite The Broken Ankle Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
- Rust en Vrede CWG Auction Estate 2013
- Spier Auction Selection Frans K Smit 2011
- Rijk’s CWG Chenin Blanc 2013
All my notes on the wines, in the order tasted. Unedited except insofar as the names were added afterwards, so sure to be some typos – and some auto-spelling corrections that would render the point being made obscure even to me.
Simonsig Cuvée Chêne Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs 2007 Good biscuity nose some marmite. Elegant, lightly rich style, no great intensity or bite, a touch sour on finish. 16+
Graham Beck Non Plus Ultra MCC 2008 More obviously old, a touch oxidative and developed, bead rather lazy, good flavour so, nicely dry. 16+
Silverthorn Big Dog II MCC 2011 Fresh, fruity aromas. Good rich acidity. 17
Nitida Swan Song Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Oak shows on very interesting, citrus, stonefruit nose. More blackcurrant on rich, balanced palate, penetrating acid. Good length, mingling the lemony and the blackcurrant. 17+
Bartho Eksteen Vloekskoot Sauvignon Blanc 2015 More exuberantly ripe, tropical aromas, also some bc. something a bit heavy in the balance. Acid there but not enlivening. Good length. Rather monolithic. 16
Cederberg Ghost Corner Semillon 2015 Lovely lemon, wax, lanolin nose. Very classic. Fresh, balanced, fine acid, well integrated oak. Young still. Decent length. 17
Nicky Versfeld Double Barrel Semillon 2015 Oak shows on nose, now obscuring other notes. Richer, oakier style, a touch ponderous, though with very good acid. Some intensity suggests a good future once oak integrates. 16+
Mullineux Clairette Blanche 2015 Lots of fresh elegance and charm. A touch simple, but about as attractive as it could be. Floral, etc. Welcomely unpretentious and unusual in this lineup. 17
Simonsig Mediterraneo 2015. Great nose, complex and interesting. Light, some broadening from oak. Balanced intensity but not tiring; concentrated. Long. 18
Rijk’s CWG Chenin Blanc 2013 Rather too oaky, but some intensity on nose suggests it may come round. Big, rich, perhaps a touch too sweet. Big acid, but a little ponderous and unfresh. Decent intensity. 15+
Beaumont Moerse Moer Chenin Blanc 2015 Fresher nose, good thatchy, earthy, dried fruit nose. Balanced, no obvious oak, chalky, dry, interesting. Not fruity but good concentration of flavour.17
Kaapzicht Estate Auction Selection 1947 Chenin Blanc 2015. Similar sort of nose, but a bit fresher, lighter, touches of floral. Similar diff on palate. Integrated acid, all balanced and intense without being imposing like 10. Lingering. 18
Waterford ’88 Kept Aside Chardonnay 2015 Quiet nose, no imposing oak. Q exciting. Lemony, a bit nutty oatmealy, oak integrated, all balanced, restrained. Some ripe richness but not too much. Cooley restrained. 17-
Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2015 Riper, richer, more oaky nose. And palate. Plenty of intensity and excitement there. A stylistic choice – a bit assertive for me, perhaps some RS? Lemony finish, decent length. 16+
Jordan Chardonnay Auction Selection 2015 Impressive nose, nutty oak yet to integrate, but it will. Incipient complexity. Beautiful, limpid, silky and intense. Poised and balanced and fresh, youthful. With lightness and elegance. Lovely length, lilting lay light. 18
Ataraxia Under the Gavel Chardonnay 2015 More intense, oak driven nose. Good typicality, usual stuff. Needs more time 17+.
Tokara Siberia Chardonnay 2015 Fresher, less oaky nose. Delightfully fresh, but great fruit concentration. Balanced, etc. v good length. 17++
Groot Constantia Auction Chardonnay 2015 Slightly odd wood notes on nose. Good, fresh enough, texture, powerful. 17
Vriesenhof Pinot Noir 2013 Clean fruit, no obv oak, but more depth than just fruit. Q complex, with dark cherry. Palate similar, bracing acidity, character, perhaps terroir. Escapes usual obvious charm. V little tannin. 17
De Grendel Op de Berg Pinot Noir 2014 Touch funky on the nose. Again good acid, but less freshness, more intense, some oak showing. Not quite harmonious, nowhere obvious for it to go. But interesting and good enough. 16+
Paul Cluver Auction Selection Pinot Noir 2014 More typical, serious Pinot. Rich, rather powerful, a bit more tannic grip and grunt. Bigger bolder style, impressive, but a bit monolithic, lacking complexity. 16+
Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Seadragon Pinot Noir 2015 Fine elegant nose. A bit of vanilla oak showing. Refined and elegant, with good acid, a little tannin, plenty of fruit. Modern style shows vintage well. Intense fruit, good length. Bright, energetic. 18
Gottfried Mocke Wine Projects Pinot Noir 2015 Less compelling, sweeter fruited, ripe cherry intensity, a littl tannic grip, balanced acid, a touch sweet on the finish. 16+
Neil Ellis Insignium 2013 Ripe, big nose, no obvious oak, but promising bigness. More elegant than expected, though pretty powerful and a little heat on the finish. Soft, ripe tannins, good sweet fruit, fairly dry finish. Very pleasant. 16+
Hartenberg CWG Auction Shiraz 2012 Opaque. Good developed nose, still some obvious fruit. Rather alcoholic, but sweet charming fruit, not without freshness and charm. Oak integrated. Power is the problem. 16
Mullineux Trifecta Syrah 2014 Interesting nose, no oak showing, harmonious. Rather elegant, refined, though no shrinking violet. Balanced, rather exciting. Dryish, spicy finish. 18
Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Auction Reserve 2014 Plenty of clean fruit on nose. Sweet fruit but refined dry finish. Vibrant, lively. Restrained oaking and power. Spicy intensity. Lovely. 18
Groot Constantia Auction Shiraz 2014 Fruity, vanilla nose. Not too intense, however, good blackcurrant fruit, just rather too much warmth. Oaking integrated and good. Pleasing enough. 17
Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2013 Good sweet fruited nose. Elegant entry, but rather burny. Again oak not a problem. nothing special. 16+
Cederberg Teen die Hoog Shiraz 2014 More typical CWG nose. Oaky, big. Same on palate, add fruity, alcoholic burn. Stylistic choice. Well enough balanced, but not much grape or origin character. 16
Teddy Hall Maria van Loon née Engelbrecht Shiraz 2015 Reserve Deep. Youthful nose showing oak but deep dark fruit. Big, old style, lots of power and intensity. Rather exhausting, but good of its type. 17
Saronsberg Sneeusig Shiraz 2012 Big powerful nose, ripe. Has some real freshness, surprisingly, along with power, alc, intensity, slightly sweet finish. Good of type. 17
Luddite The Broken Ankle Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Interesting leafy element to nose. Rather big and medicinal and heavy on palate, however, with power and all. No. Too much altogether. 16.
Saronsberg Die Erf SGMV 2011 Good balance, plenty of fruit intensity, some oak, but depth. A touch sweet but pleasing. 16+
Sijnn /awa 2014 Particularly Opaque. Lovely fresh fruit on nose. Rich and elegant of, with good balancing acidity well integrated, no obvious oak. A touch too ripe, but impressive and delightful. Has power, also grace. 17+
The Drift Farm Kindred Shiraz-Malbec-Barbera 2014 Good fruit, not too much obvious oak. Has power, less grace than pvs. Good intensity, red, black fruit. 16+
Louis Nel Unobtanium Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz 2014 Blackcurrant. Lovely intensity, depth of fruit. Rather too much tiring power, though. But oak not a problem. Not too sweet. More impressive. Good. 17
Strydom The Expatriate Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz 2013 Lighter than pvs, nice serious tannins. Plenty of fruit. needs time. drier. 17+
Rust en Vrede CWG Auction Estate 2013 Ripe, cabbish. Big, alcoholic burn, oak. Old fashioned. Intense but boring. 16.
Ernie Els CWG 2014 Fresher nose, some character. Balanced, claim to elegance despite bigness. Intense rather good. sweet fruit but dry enough long finish. V nice. 17
Spier Auction Selection Frans K Smit 2011. Opaque. Little maturity on color. Big, oaky nose. Rather sweet fruited, big warm alc. Old fashioned. Decent of type. 16
Jordan Sophia 2013 All these rather opaque. Fresher nose, some franc leafiness? More light charm, dry fruit, though intense. Good concentration, promising. Clean fresh element. 17
Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2013 Interesting savoury complexity on nose. Lighter and more elegant than others – just. Impressive complexity, fruit depth, Balzac, oak integration’ depth and length. Dry finish. Savoury, moreish. 18
Etienne le Riche Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Ripe rich nose. Attractive freshness despite ripe intensity and sweet fruit. Fairly dry finish. Some depth, though no real elegance. Good for 07. Still young, room to go. 17
Etienne le Riche Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Ripe nose, rather similar to pvs. Good modern style, intensity, if not s whole lot of depth of character. 17
Edgebaston Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 Good, a bit too powerful and alcoholic on finish. Intense but no real complexity. Length, yes. 16
Hartenberg CWG Auction Cabernet Sauvigon 2014 Notably elegant. Still modern, more fruity than savoury, but well balanced, with some elegance and refinement. Good tannic grip. 17+
Rijk’s CWG Pinotage 2013 Clean fruit driven nose, quite fresh. Fairly refined, though plush and rather ripely alcoholic on finish. Needs lots of time. 17
Kanonkop CWG Pinotage 2014 More restrained, slightly dusty, savoury, complex nose. Mor elegant than pvs. Less imposing, more intriguing. Fine wine with long future. 17+
Beyerskloof Traildust Pinotage 2014 More old style oaky richness power on nose. Lots of fruit. Some will prefer the sweetness. But good. 16+.
Boplaas Cape Vintage Auction Reserve 2009. Most appealing, quite complex, but could do with more genuine youthful power and tannic grip in place of charm.
Boplaas 1880 Ox Wagon Reserve 8 Year Potstill Brandy. Gorgeous. 17.5