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30 September 2015

South Africa: Cape Winemakers' Guild Auction

From www.capewinemakersguild.com
The 2015 Cape Winemakers' Guild Auction 'of rare Cape wines' (as the glossy brochure says) takes place this Saturday 3 October at Spier winery in Stellenbosch. This organisation represents 'South Africa's finest winemakers,' the blurb continues: looking down the list of names, you'd be hard-pressed to disagree though. "You have to be invited and voted in by the rest based on track record etc..." as member-winemaker Andrea Mullineux explained at a recent preview tasting in London.
The idea is that these winemakers create a specific small-batch wine 'exclusively for this auction' (some of them do end up being released commercially, or at least a different label based on the blend), which the proceeds of go towards funding the Guild's Development Trust 'to support social development through further education in the South African wine industry.' This includes accredited wine training courses, the Protégé Programme for 'cultivating, nurturing and empowering promising oenologists and viticulturists' and bursaries to university students. So, now you know, get your Rand at the ready. Here's my pick (17 wines) of a selection of this year's auction labels tasted a couple of weeks ago.

Graham Beck Non Plus Ultra Méthode Cap Classique 2008, Western Cape - Pieter Ferreira. 81% Chardonnay (some of it barrel-fermented), 19% Pinot Noir; 72 months lees-ageing, 6.7 gr/l residual sugar (RS), 11.66% abv. Lost its fizz quite quickly, nice complex toasty and rich aromas/flavours though vs dry and 'salty' tang, lacks a little zip in the end; classy fizz although has probably seen better days.

Kanonkop CWG Pinotage 2013, Simonsberg - Abrie Beeslaar. Old low-yielding bush vines; 18 months in barrel, 14.9% abv. Wild peppery nose with spicy alcohol tones and coconut/chocolate oak, fairly extracted but has good tannins and lots of peppery fruit, enticing mix of roasted red pepper vs that 'dark side'. Wow: still needs some time to come together and for the oak to melt in...
Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2012, Simonsberg - Abrie Beeslaar. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc from 27 year-old vineyards picked very ripe; 24 months in new French oak, 13.9% abv. Quite firm and taut with crunchy cassis vs darker berry fruit, solid and fresh mouth-feel with subtle concentration, still fairly oaky yet has attractive texture with well-balanced mix of tannins/acid vs grain vs depth, very long; still youthful and structured, not too oaky in the end.
Rust en Vrede CWG Estate 2012, Stellenbosch - Coenie Snyman. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 5% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot; 22 months in barrel, 14.78% abv. Smoky maturing nose with cassis, black cherry and spicy red pepper notes; firm and fresh mouth-feel with quite supple tannins though and nice smoky sweet/savoury fruit finish. Good wine: powerful and concentrated but balanced; less 'austere' than the Paul Sauer.

Jordan Chardonnay Auction Selection 2014, Stellenbosch - Gary Jordan. From his Nine Yards Chardonnay vineyard; wild yeast fermentation, barrel-fermented 12 months, 13% abv. Riper citrus fruit with creamy toasty edges, a tad more oak but it's fairly lush with fuller texture, 'sweeter' fruit and buttery toast flavours vs a little bite. Very nice Chardy: different from the Cluver below and a bit more upfront.
Jordan Sophia 2012, Stellenbosch - Gary Jordan. 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc from 'the best hillside vineyards'; 26 months in French oak, 14% abv. Red pepper and spicy cedar tones on the nose, firm vs lusher side with nice crunchy vs richer blackcurrant fruit, taut yet attractive tannins with fresh acidity too, subtle cedar/coconut grain, well-made and quite stylish.

Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2014, Elgin - Andries Burger. 100% Chardy 'selected from 27 year-old vineyards, the oldest on the property.' Barrel-fermented with one-third new wood, left on the lees for 9 months; 13.34% abv. Buttery and aromatic, light toast and coconut grain / spice vs lush and creamy with 'sweet' citrus fruit vs nice bite, lovely balance of rich vs crisp and lively.
Paul Cluver Auction Selection Pinot Noir 2013, Elgin - Andries Burger. From their 'highest lying Pinot Noir vineyards...'; 11 months in oak (only 25% new), 13.61% abv. Sexy Pinot nose with perfumed sweet/savoury notes, maturing savoury fruit vs attractive bite and freshness, elegance vs weight, concentrated and long with subtle spice tones. Lovely wine.

Hartenberg CWG Auction Shiraz 2013, Stellenbosch - Carl Schultz. From their 'two single vineyard Shiraz sites, Gravel Hill and Stork...'; 21 months in 50% new barriques, 14.54% abv. Peppery black cherry nose with a touch of coconut and vanilla, powerful vs lush dark and spicy fruit, still quite firm yet nicely textured tannins, punchy and peppery mouth-feel with sweet vs savoury fruit and some wilder edges too, the oak is well-balanced in the end. Good stuff.
Hartenberg CWG Auction Merlot 2013, Stellenbosch - Carl Schultz. 'Single vineyard parcel' - 20 months in new French and Romanian oak, 14.34% abv. Cedary with herbal red pepper notes, lusher plum fruit on the palate in the background vs still very firm structure and lingering leafy/cedar tones. A tad austere at the moment, but there is something 'classic' about it...

Savage Wines 'Follow the Line' 2013, Western Cape - Duncan Savage. One-third Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah 'sourced from a number of altitude and maritime vineyards around the Western Cape.' Made in clay amphora and large old oak tuns, 13% abv. Aromatic cherry and spice on the nose, a hint of 'funk' too; seems punchy although more peppery, quite soft tannins with savoury edges. Pretty good and a bit different.

Mullineux 'The Gris' Semillon 2014, Swartland - Andrea Mullineux. 100% Semillon Gris from 'a 56 year-old heritage dry-farmed vineyard grown on granite soils...' Natural barrel-fermentation, one year on lees without stirring; 12.66% abv. Lightly nutty/coconutty, creamy and exotic vs tight and closed up still, fine-grained texture vs 'sweet' fruit and weight vs 'salty' acid structure. Intriguing wine, could be good; probably needs a bit more time: did open up nicely over lunch actually.
Mullineux Trifecta Chenin Blanc 2013, Swartland - Andrea Mullineux. From 'our three best Swartland vineyards (schist, granite, quartz)...' Barrel-fermented 'naturally'; 13.68% abv. Lovely honeyed and nutty nose, creamy with savoury hazelnut, nice weight vs a fresher 'saltier' side, maturing roast nut flavours vs subtle balance. Very nice Chenin. Andrea expanded: "I wanted it to be more of a winemaker's wine than a terroir Chenin Blanc like our other one."

Boplaas Ouma Cloete Straw Wine 2013, Calitzdorp (Klein Karoo) - Carel Nel. 'Crafted from the most raisined sun-dried bunches of Viognier fermented in traditional lagars...' 183 gr/l RS, 10.7% abv. Marmalade and honey with dried apricot, very lush and sweet with fair bite and fresh cut.
Sijnn !uri 2014, Malgas (Breede River) - David Trafford. 55% Viognier, 35% Chenin Blanc and 10% Roussanne 'all barrel-fermented in French oak for 10 months, 50% new... natural yeast fermented and bottled unfiltered.' 14.56% abv. Pretty golden in colour, quite rich honeyed pineapple fruit and subtle toasted coconut notes, powerful with light oak grain and fairly luscious lingering exotic fruit (it's very dry though); well-handled winemaking touches.

Louis Nel 'A Thousand Kisses Deep' Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Stellenbosch - Louis Nel. Three months on lees; 13% abv. Very aromatic citrus and pear, softer SB style but lively and lees-y with nice ripe kiwi fruit and zesty 'chalky' mouth-feel, crisp and quite delicate finish; subtle depth though for a very 'approachable' wine. Must ask him where that name came from.
AA Badenhorst Family Wines 'Geel-Kapel' Muscat de Frontignan 2013, Swartland - Adi Badenhorst. From old vines in the Moutonshoek Valley (sounds like sheep's corner?); aged for 1.5 years in an old cask, not fined or filtered and no added sulphur dioxide; 13.63% abv. Quirky natural-leaning, although cleverly reined in, and dry style of Muscat: apricot and grape aromas mingle with quite volatile wilder-edged tones, turning nuttier with oxidising notes and a bit of oomph too vs very dry and crisp even, pretty intense finish and nicely textured as well. Adi must have added this bold comment at the bottom of the page: 'This wine will be ready for drinking in 10 years' time'!

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.