Michael Fridjhon Review on CWG Auction Wines for 2011

By MICHAEL FRIDJHON

BUSINESS DAY 09 Sep 2011 Page 8


Arts&Leisure Wine 

THE annual auction of the Cape Winemakers Guild will be held at Spier on October 1 1. The coterie of avante garde wine makers who established the (initially not very formal) organisation in the early 1980s has evolved into a significant force in SA’s fine-wine industry.

Several founding members are still active, some producing its most sought-after wines. In the early days, the guild auctions were conducted by Sotheby’s in Johannesburg. Since I was the wine consultant there at the time, I was directly involved and I have retained a catalogue from the inaugural sale. It was a hard-cover cloth-bound publication and included 1 pictures of the guildsmen. Time has been Icind to most of them: those who presented their wines at this year’s presale tasting at Nedbank were recognisably the same people whose mug shots appeared in that first catalogue — presumably then, as now, to provide visual appeal to what would otherwise have been a pretty dull publication.

This year, Jan “Boland” Coetzee has two Pinot Noir’s (the Clone 777 is the one to seek out) under his Vriesenhof label. At the first sale, he offered a barrel selection of what must have been Cabernet Sauvignon. Overgaauw’s Braam van Velden is selling his latest DC Classic — easily the best wine he has had on the auction in the past decade. Neither wine maker needs to prove anything these days, and both wines have the restraint that comes from that sense of confidence.

Other faces from that first auction include Etienne le Riche, whose Cabernet-based wines have long been among the most sought-after purchases at the auction; and Kevin Arnold, whose Waterford reds need no introduction to SA’s fine-wine drinkers. Peter Finlayson of Bouchard Finlayson is there too, offering (pretty much as he has done for the past 25 years) a reserve Pinot Noir that will seem huge enough to achieve the kind of price normally associated with the Grand Cru reds from the Cote de Nuits. Neil Ellis brings his Rodanos Shiraz-Grenache blend — a far cry from the Cabernets on which he first made his reputation.

Jeff Grier (Villiera — Shoot Star MCC 2008) and Johan Malan (Simonsig — Pick of the Bunch Pinotage 2009) are also founder members but happily there are also newcomers (Rianie Strydom from Haskell Vineyards has finally cracked the nod). More important, there is a new auction selection process that simply confirms the wines are technically sound, leaving it up to the market to be the real gatekeeper.

With more than 50 different wines, punters will be spoilt for choice. I preferred the white line-up, as I did last year, though this year’s reds were generally better than last year’s. Oak was less marked and there was a sense of greater finesse in how they had been handled. Those I disliked were simply “overdone”; with alcohols averaging between 14,5% and 15,5%, it is clear the pursuit of punch took precedence over nuance. The reds that appealed included the Paul Cluver Pinot Noir 2010; the Kaapzicht Auction Reserve 2007; the Grangehurst Cabernet Sauvignon 2006; the Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2009 (the first vintage from Marc Kent’s Porselainberg site in the Swartland); the De Trafford Sijnn Touriga Nacional 2009; the Kanonkop Pinotage 2009; the Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2008; and the Jordan Sophia 2009.

The white wine line-up had some impressive offerings: Steenberg The Magus 2010; Cape Point Barrelfermented Sauvignon Blanc 2010; Flagstone Happy Hour 2009; Teddy Hall Hendrik Biebouw Chenin Blanc 2010; Ataraxia Chardonnay 2010; Jordan Chardonnay 2010; and the 2009 Paul Cluver Wagon Trail (its fruit now emerging from rather too much oak).

There’s a very fine fizz (the Non Plus Ultra 2005) from Graham Beck (wine maker Pieter Ferreira also had wine on that first auction), and a delicious Muscat, the Three Thousand and One Nights.

Further information go to http://www.capewinemakersguild.com

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