The 2016 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction: Distinctive Wines
from South Africa
BY STEPHEN TANZER | SEPTEMBER 20, 2016
My annual late-summer tasting of the
new crop of Cape Winemakers Guild auction wines has become one of my favorite
group tastings of each year. The four dozen or so wines offered at each year’s
auction provide a stunning overview of the remarkable diversity of South
Africa’s wine industry. The membership of the Guild is a who’s who of the
country’s most talented winemakers.
This year’s tasting gave me my first good look at the highly
touted 2015 vintage, which most insiders consider to be one of the greatest
vintages of South Africa’s modern era, and I have to say it offered the most
consistently excellent set of CWG wines I have sampled to date. The 32nd
annual CWG auction will be held at the Spier estate in Stellenbosch on
Saturday, October 1. The CWG event is sponsored by Nedbank, one of South
Africa's largest banks, whose Trust supports the education and social needs of
farm workers, their families and their communities.
The CWG wines, which are created specifically for the
purposes of this auction, have always been crafted to showcase the high quality
and distinctiveness of South African wines to the trade and private buyers. Among
the highlights of this year’s collection is an outstanding set of Chardonnays
from the very rich 2015 vintage, with the Sauvignon Blancs, Semillons and other
white blends from this vintage almost as impressive and equally consistent in
quality. In my regular coverage on Vinous of new releases from South Africa,
white wines often figure prominently among the highlights, and it is clear that
the very warm, very early 2015 harvest was outstanding for these wines.
I also tasted a couple of Pinot Noirs this year that were
unusually complex, deep and gripping for the category. South Africa’s unique
and idiosyncratic Pinotage wines, too, are well represented with stunning
entries from two of the country’s leading practitioners of that variety, Beyers
Truter and Abrie Beeslaar. And South Africa’s Cabernet-based wines and
Shiraz/Syrah bottlings, which once again dominate this year’s line-up of CWG
offerings, need no introduction from this taster.
I was able to taste nearly all of the 2016 auctions items at
the beginning of September. Please note that a number of additional items in
this year’s auction were also offered in past auctions; you will find my
reviews of some of these wines in last year’s coverage of the 2015 event.
Most of the auction bottlings are extremely
limited—typically just the equivalent of one to two barrels of wine of each
item are on offer—and are sold in lots ranging in size from 12 to 48 bottles.
The 2015 auction, for example, featured a total of 2,575 cases (each the
equivalent of six 750 ml. bottles), with prices ranging from $102 for a case of
6 bottles to as high as $889 (my figures represent conversions from South
African Rand prices at the then-current exchange rate). In other words, some
very fine—and unique—wines can be had at remarkably moderate prices.
Interestingly, the U.S. Dollar today buys about 14 Rand, which is almost identical
to the exchange rate at the time of last October’s auction. The South African
currency has steadily lost value in recent years (it was 8 to the Dollar as
recently as 2012), although the Rand has made something of a recovery since it
bottomed out at well over 16 to the Dollar in January of this year. Still, by
long-term standards, the CWG auction items remain inexpensive considering their
quality and scarcity.
For more information
on the auction and the bidding process, readers may wish to visit the Cape
Winemakers Guild website. Please note that the registration process
needs to be completed by this Friday, September 23.
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The 2015 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction, Stephen Tanzer, September 2015
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