With the 43rd Nederburg sale done and dusted and the Cape Winemakers’ Guild Auction scheduled for the end of this month, wine auction season is now in full swing. Judging from the results of Nederburg (over R6m in turnover, from under 1000 dozen on offer, and no unsold lots) the recession has not eaten too significantly into the disposable income of those who like to shop in the oxygen-thin space of the rare wine trade.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the pricing of the Guild wines, where volumes are up on 2016, an upbeat reflection on the increasing credibility of the Guild Auction brand. Total volumes on the sale last year were 1214 12 bottle case equivalents compared with 1481 this year. Last year’s prices were pretty extraordinary – given that it would have been hard to argue that the South African economy in the second half of 2016 was anything other than soggy, and turning to swampland in front of our eyes. The average per bottle price was R950 – with the bulk of the sales going to local buyers.
So is the demand for the Guild selection growing at a rate that exceeds the increase in availability, and will there be the resources to show better-than-inflation increases on last year’s average prices? The Guild has played its cards pretty neatly up to now, so presumably there’s more than simply brash confidence informing these decisions. If the gamble turns out to be correct, and the producers’ take (on this admittedly tiny segment of the market) prescient, perhaps they know also what the next six months will bring to our toxic political landscape – and in which case it might be time to go long on the Rand.
I tasted most wines in this year’s CWG catalogue – all blind – and compared my notes and scores to what has been on offer in the past few years. Last year I attended the sighted tasting led by the producers (so the scores can never be exactly comparable – it’s hard not to be influenced by the enthusiasm of the winemaker as s/he talks you through the virtues of his/her achievement). Nevertheless, I was conscious then of the marked improvement in the average quality of the Guild offering, an impression which remains true of the current releases – allowing for vintage variation. (Last year the fabulous 2015 vintage added depth and dimension to some of the whites, this year it’s doing a great job for many of the reds.)
There were obviously many standout wines – the Silverthorn fizz 2012 being a worthy successor to last year’s 2011, the Newton Johnson Seadragon Pinot Noir 2015 looking even better than it did on release last year. In fact the Pinot class as a whole was pretty good, with Gottfried Mocke’s 2016 also garnering a 90 point score alongside the Paul Cluver, and the Bouchard Finlayson and De Grendel not much off the pace. The Leeuw Passant Old Vine Cinsaut 2015 was also very good, as was The Drift Farm’s 2013 Barbera. Both Bartho Eksteen and De Grendel have very fine wooded sauvignons on the sale, while Simonsig’s Roussanne-Marsanne blend is a finely played Cape statement of what the Northern Rhone does so well. Miles Mossop’s Saskia-Jo 2014 (chenin/clairette) made the 90 point threshold, alongside Louis Nel’s Rapscallion 2015 (cab/shiraz), Groot Constantia’s Gouverneur’s Auction Reserve 2014, Delaire-Graff’s Banhoek Chardonnay 2016 and Rijk’s Pinotage 2014.
There were even higher scores for The Drift Farm’s “Whole Bunch Tinta” 2016, Adi Badenhorst and Duncan Savage’s Love Boat red 2016, the Ernie Els 2015, the Tokara Tribute Cabernet 2013, Ataraxia’s “under the Gavel” Chardonnay 2016 and the Hartenberg Cabernet 2015 – which was my highest scoring wine in the entire line-up.
The 33rd Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction takes place in Stellenbosch on 30th September. For online/commission bids visit www.capewinemakersguild.com, email
firstname.lastname@example.org. For a full set on my notes and scores go to