CWG Auction wines – splendours and miseries

An interesting and rare treat – a blind tasting of (nearly) all the wines to be shown at the upcoming Cape Winemakers Guild Auction. Thanks to Christian Eedes for conceiving it and making it happen, and to Wine magazine for hosting it. Five tasters were invited: Michael Fridjhon, Christine Rudman and Neil Pendock, as well as me and Christian. Remarkably, given these usually vociferous people sitting down in one room together, confronted by long rows of glasses, concentrated silence prevailed for most of the hour or two we were sniffing, swirling and sipping (and just occasionally spilling or slurping).

Scores were taken from everyone, and I hope they will all be publicised, or that at least an average will be. Christian’s tasting notes will be out next week via a Wine mag letter, and Neil has already listed his top ten on his blog. (Incidentally, I do hope that Neil – and all the others – will make scores and tasting notes for all the wines public. I’m supposed to be the one with notorious doubts about the value of blind tastings like this, and I’m willing to put my scores and judgements up for scrutiny, so I hope that those who insist on the primacy of blind versus sighted tastings will not shy away from doing so too!)

My brief notes are listed below, with scores out of 20, arranged in descending order of rating (though the order of equal-scored wines is random). For the averaging process, incidentally, I submitted scores out of 100, trying to translate these – but I’m not confident with the American system and am sure I did the translation inconsistently, so I’d prefer to include these original scores here. The tasting was, as I say, blind, but the wines were grouped varietally, and the groups were identified (eg “Shiraz”, “Sauvignon, semillon and blends”).

I shall make some general comments on the wines in my column in the Mail & Guardian next Friday. It will be obvious from the scores below, however, that I was more impressed with the white wines generally. And that I was singularly unimpressed with the shirazes – all of which, to some degree, were excessively oaked, to the point that their variety could have been in question! There was also    too much over-ripeness, even “dead fruit”, in the red wines.

Are wines like these worthy of a prestigious event like the CWG Auction – and worthy of sharing a platform with some of the truly fine wines on offer? Surely it’s time for the CWG to take a long hard look at its own contradictions. It is depressing to think that fine, elegant shirazes like those of Luddite, Boekenhoutskloof and Hartenberg were rejected by the tasting panel in favour of all this oak. Even in Australia, where the favoured style originated, they are fast moving away from it. In the Northern Rhone, shirazes like these would be regarded with something closer to horror than surprise, I suspect, even by the modernists there! Probably my scores are too generous for them and for some other reds.

But some great wines in the line-up too – even though I suspect that punters should rather consider buying, at a fraction of the cost, the “standard” equivalents of these wines where they exist, as in many cases they do.

 

– Details of the Auction, to be held on 2 October, can be found on the CWG website

 

Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2009 Fine chard nose, classic, excellent. Rich, fruit-depth, but not showy. Admirable balance. Well-integrated oak that will only get more harmonious with a few years in bottle. Good citrus length. 18.5

***

Edgebaston Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve 2008 Fine nose. Successful integration of classic and modern-fruity style. Big, grand wine. Confident, assured. Big but ripe tannins need time to soften, while they continue carrying the deep, dark-berried fruit. 18.5

***

Tullie Family Vineyards The Yair 2009 Perfumed aromas, gentle, subtle. Some lemon, waxy notes, probably semillon.  Lovely gentle  power, no obvious oak, very long – same perfumed quality on finish as on nose. Actually, perhaps a little oak on nose, but this should integrate. Room to develop well in bottle for a few years. 18.5

***

Nitida Aureus 2009 Aromas of some charm, showing a little oak. Beautifully subtle elegance, understated and fine, nothing showy. Creamy elegance to palate, fine natural acidity – feeling altogether of unforced naturalness. 18

***

Boplaas Auction Reserve Port 2008 Interesting, fine. Youthful fire, lots of flavour, perhaps a little too sweet – but delicious already and will be more so in a few years – though perhaps too ripe to have a very long future. 18

***

Cape Point Vineyards Auction Reserve White 2008 A chardonnay depth to the nose? Lightly rich – more chenin weight, thatch on palate. Acid a touch harsh on finish, but lovely fruit flavours linger well. Rounded, elegant. Probably some oak influence – but on texture only, not aromas. Should develop. 17.5

***

Kanonkop Pinotage 2008 Lovely fruit nose. Puts the shirazes to shame – compared with them, has modesty and finesse. Untrammelled by oak.  Good structure and balance  between tannin, fruit acid. Sweetness and tannins both well restrained. Very nice. 17.5

***

Teddy Hall Mediterranean White 2008 Interesting, characterful nose, with incipient complexity.  Oxidative styling. Some citrus, thatch, peach notes. Acid high, but probably natural and well integrated – speaking for future of the wine rather than present. Probably great food wine. Savoury, vinous, natural. 17.5

***

AA Badenhorst Family Wines Auction Red 2005 Quite a classic nose. Serious wine. Nicely rich, savoury, well balanced tannin, acid and fruit – integration and harmony will grow with a few years in bottle. 17.5

***

Simonsig Cuvée Chêne Cap Classique 2004 Forward nose, quite developed; suggests decent length on lees.  Appley, spicey freshness. Rich, full-bodied, with long, brut finish. 17.5

***

Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve 2006 Medium-deep, fairly mature colour. Textbook cab nose – perhaps a little burnt, charry note. A touch old fashioned in its presentation. Classic structure, with firm but ripe tannins, savoury. With good future still, but drinkable now. Nice stern element to it. 17

***

Cederberg Private Cellar Semillon 2010 Fruit-forward, pleasant nose. Typical sauv characters, dusty grenadilla, blackcurrant. Fairly subtle, racy, mineral, with finesse. Any oak beautifully integrated.  17

***

Steenberg The Magus 2009 Shy nose. Non-varietal in character, but stressing semillon’s richness of texture. Deep acidity – perhaps a touch too aggressive in youth; should integrate. The understated power is revealed by lengthy finish. A touch too thick-textured? 17

***

Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2007 Spicy, well-oaked aromas, some sweet vanillin. Oaky palate, but very good example of modern styling: showy fruit with serious structure, very firm tannins. Sweet impression on finish (oak?).  Needs time – not much charm right now – still quite hard work. 17

***

Villiera Shooting Star 2007 Lovely fresh bubbly, mild, round, dry, mouthfilling but elegant. Notably dry richness. 17

***

De Grendel Amandelboord Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Overt, showy sauvignon nose and flavours, nothing subtle about it. Usual mix grass, passionfruit, citrus. Not too agresssive, with steely mineral length. Good of its rather showy type. 17

***

Keets Viognier 2009 Not blowsy like many viogniers, but obvious peachy fruit, well integrated with oak. Dry, thank heavens. Powerful, with big acid, the finish rather burny from high alcohol. 16.5

***

Jordan Chardonnay Auction Reserve 2009
Rather too much oak, fairly flamboyant fruit, decently structured, but oak is what lingers. Showy and modern, on the whole. Some will like more than I do. 16.5

***

Bouchard Finlayson Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2007
Fairly deep colour for a pinot. Quite oaky nose and palate, fairly mature. Rich fruit, a touch stewed and ripe. Not very harmonious. 16.5

***

Rijk’s Private Cellar Auction Reserve Chenin Blanc 2009 Perfumed, oaky nose. Big, full, powerful, oaky. Good fruit, nice roundness, but oak gives hardness to the finish. 16.5

***

Ernie Els CWG 2008 Nice hints of fruit, but then oak takes over. Big – very big; ripe – very ripe. Rather oaky finish. Lots of power, less drinkability. Big, powerful, rich. Will be admired by many. Good length, slightly drying big tannins. 16.5

***

AA Badenhorst Kalmoesfontein Semillon NLH Lovely restraint and naturalness, but a touch too blondely charming and sweet. Needs something more bracing to structure it more firmly. Chalky texture. A little tannin. 16.5

***

Teddy Hall Tribute Méthode Cap Classique 2003 Rather oxidative notes,  very developed & nutty; not entirely fresh, but the complexity of flavour will be some compensation for lovers of older wine. Very dry finish. 16

***

Rijk’s Private Cellar Auction Reserve Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Pure oak on nose, dominating to an unacceptable degree. Also powerful spicy oakiness on palate – though plenty of fruit lurking about, but damaged and made rather irrelevant by the oak. 16

***

Kaapzicht Cape Blend Auction Reserve 2007 Quite lifted, pleasing aromas. Good fruit. Some charm, but v ripe, powerful, oaky, with too much in the may of tannin, acid. Rather drying (effect of oak) on sweet  finish. 16

***

Kaapzicht Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Auction Reserve 2007 Opaquely deep. Fruity nose. Attractive, modern style hoping to transcend its essential vulgarity with big tannic impressiveness. Big, showy, blockbusterish. A stylistic choice – nothing much to do with variety or terroir. Notably sweet-seeming finish, but this from fruit rather than sugar, probably. 16

***

Flagstone “Happy Hour” Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon 2009 Modest, slightly oaky nose. A little sugar + acid? Finish a touch hard – from oak? No great depth or interest. Good texture. 16

***

Villiera Mother Earth 2008 Merlotish fruitcake nose, some fragrance. Well balanced, decent, but fruit a bit too ripely sweet. Lots of both tannin and acid. Possibly harmony will come, but it’s not there yet – more power than grace at present. 16

***

Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Shiraz 2008 Sweetish, fruity  nose – better than overtly oaky! Some charm. But oak starts intervening heavily on the palate and dominates the sweet, rather drying finish. 16

***

De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2009 Good pinot fruit character. Nice earthy, fruity perfume.  Lightish texture, decent acidity. Good structure, with firm but restrained tannins. Pretty ordinary. 15.5

***

Spier Merlot 2008 Deep colour. Fruitcake nose – typical merlot, but no greeness apparent. Ripe. Very ripe indeed. Lots of soft fruit, very fine tannins, but they’re rather reclusive.  A touch squishy, soft, thick, with added acid striving to compensate for inherent freshness. But overripeness precludes fruit definition, precision.  15.5

***

Boschkloof CWG Conclusion 2006 Deep colour. Very ripe nose.  Soft squishy ripeness, with enough tannins and acid, but diminshed fruit depth from overripeness leaves a vapid, sweet impression. 15.5

***

Neil Ellis Auction Reserve 2007 Sweet fruity nose. Excess oak makes it seem a touch sickly, sweet. Would be difficult to drink a whole  glassful. Thick, ripe, smug tannins. Ungraceful. 15.5

***

Hidden Valley Top Secret 2008 Deep colour. Coffee oak dominates nose. Big, thick and inelegant. Firm savoury tannins; sweet, mocha finish. Quite good of its type, but by this stage of the proceedings I’m feeling ungenerous. 15.5

***

Boschkloof Auction Reserve Shiraz 2007 Pleasant enough nose. Powerful dry-tannined palate gives little room for drinkable pleasure. Oak-dry finish overwhelms the fruit – though persistence of flavour argues it must still be lurking there. Little varietal character.  15.5

***

Saronsberg Die Erf Shiraz 2007 Oaky sweet nose.  Shallow, showy, oaky-sweet palate, sweet finish. Well structured and clearly expertly handled, but the effect to me is rather awful, though some will like it, sadly. Again, difficult to tell this is shiraz. 15.5

***

Simonsig Auction Reserve Shiraz 2008 Oaky, sweet-fruit nose. Rather hollow, with oaky flavour dominant, and the finish rather dried out by oak tannins. Another defeat of fruit.  15.5

***

Louis Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Ripe sweet, fruity nose. Quite pretty in a vapid way, but actually has more structure than fruit forcefulness, thanks to over-ripeness. Leaves an unsatisfactory, sweet impression. 15

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