A tasting last week of the 60-odd wines being sold at this year’s Cape Winemakers Guild revealed a number of general points. A depressing one I already knew: that sitting down for a few hours to taste that many wines is going to produce more useful notes nearer the beginning than at the end (I’m going to spare you all of them and rather resort to simple lists of those I particularly liked). The tannic build-up of a whole series of more-or-less powerful reds makes it, at this relentless speed of tasting, virtually impossible to allocate the tannins in one’s mouth to the correct wine, especially with an overworked palate!
More cheerfully, it’s good to note that the general progress – a general reduction in show-stopping power – in CWG wines continues. There is so much less over-oaking than there used to be (especially among the reds), and so much more freshness. That said, there is, I think, still too much devotion to tannic, ripe bigness amongst those reds: syrah less so – and pinot and cinsaut of course; cabernet and pinotage particularly.
Whites are still under-represented unfortunately, though stronger than the reds (as is to be expected) – no doubt still for the same reason: the buyers go for reds and largely ignore the brilliance of Cape whites, however locally and internationally lauded they might be; and this is basically a commercial auction and winemakers (mostly) give what their adoring public wants. Congratulations to those who offer something more interesting than barrel selections of wines in their standard range.
In fact I think virtually all the whites – bubbly, sauvignon, semillon, chenin, chardonnay – recommendable; there were just three or four that I didn’t much care for, notably two chenins and a viognier. My favourites I scored at least 17 out of 20. Out of them I rated the following highest (in order of tasting):
- Nicky Versfeld Double Barrel Semillon 2016
- Simonsig Die Kluisenaar Roussanne-Marsanne 2016
- Miles Mossop Wines Saskia-Jo 2014
- Rijk’s CWG Chenin Blanc 2015
- Waterford Estate ‘1988 Kept Aside’ Chardonnay 2016
- Ataraxia Under The Gavel Chardonnay 2016
Other whites I would heartily recommend to auction buyers:
- Silverthorn Wines Big Dog III Méthode Cap Classique 2012
- De Grendel Wooded Sauvignon Blanc 2016
- Bartho Eksteen Vloekskoot Sauvignon Blanc
- DeMorgenzon Roussanne 2016
- Mullineux Trifecta Chenin Blanc 2014
- Johan Joubert Wines Granite Selection Chenin Blanc 2016
- Jordan CWG Chardonnay 2016
- Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2016
- Delaire Graff Estate Banghoek Chardonnay 2016
Of the pinots, I didn’t much care for Bouchard Finlayson 2012 or De Grendel Op Die Berg 2015. My favourite was:
- Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Windansea Pinot Noir 2016.
And I also thought these two showed very well:
- Paul Cluver Auction Selection Pinot Noir 2015
- Vriesenhof Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015.
The two cinsauts were very good, the first listed below getting closer to profundity than most cinsauts do, and the other much more than simply charming:
- Leeu Passant Old Vines Cinsault 2015
- B Vintners Inboet Storie Cinsaut 2016
Of the blends my top scorer was:
- Adi Badenhorst and Duncan Savage Love Boat Red 2016
- Rust en Vrede CWG Auction Estate 2014
followed by (still in order of tasting):
- DeMorgenzon Gravitas 2015
- Waterford Estate BB 2014
- Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Auction Reserve 2014
- Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2014
- De Trafford Perspective 2015.
The only cabernet I liked more than about 16.5/20, frankly, was:
- Etienne le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve 2014.
Shiraz, ah yes. The Swartland did best for me:
- AA Badenhorst Family Wines Chase The Spice Swartland Shiraz 2014
- Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Auction Reserve 2015
And I liked this one much more than I ever have before:
- Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Shiraz 2015
- Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2015:
Only one pinotage stood out as excellent on my tired palate:
- Kanonkop CWG Pinotage 2015
A good showing, then. If I were to choose two whites and two reds for myself, they’d be Miles Mossop Saskia-Jo and Ataraxia Chardonnay; Love Boat Red and Boekenhoutskloof Syrah.
The auction is at Spier in Stellenbosch as usual, on 30 September. Go to the CWG website for more details, including of various tasting opportunities.