Friday, August 12, 2011

Auction Season - a preview

Driving to the CWG tasting I found myself wondering just how much the new selection criteria was a posturing exercise and if it would translate into better wines. The answer is an unequivocal yes – for the posturing exercise, no just kidding – the wines were delicious showing more balance and purity than I have seen before from the Guild.

Another preconceived notion I nearly quashed was that the whites would be way better than the reds but the gap has closed. Some of the alcohols were a bit hot but oaking more restrained and the fact that many of them were 09 - which many have lauded as best ever for the Cape – also must have helped close the gap. Some of the reds still showed unwanted residual sugar.

Over in Paarl, Nederburg have also re-jigged their selection criteria - including, for example, sommeliers in the selection panel – and have achieved similar results although the new CWG technical criteria may have excluded one or two Nederburg Auction wines.

Hopefully it all translates into healthy prices at the auctions but if not organisers can point to tough economic times. On that note, the rich creaminess of Graham Beck 2005 bubbly was sumptuous enough to keep those thoughts at bay as was the toastyness of the Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel 05 at the Nederburg tasting.

True to my Sauvignon Blanc bias, my stand out CWG white (not all tasted) was Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2010 which displayed passion and grapefruit intensity this writer has yet witnessed in SA – and it was 100% oaked 50% new. Part of the secret besides Duncan’s deft hand is a paltry 2t/ha from extreme vineyards.

Others I enjoyed a touch more than most include Teddy Hall’s Chenin 2010 for its Loire-like notes with new world fruit exuberance, and Paul Cluver Wagon Trail Chardonnay 09 which is nothing like a spaghetti Western.

With the reds (again not all tasted),  Dewaldt Heyn’s Grenache (Saronsburg 10) was a very pleasant surprise for it was a deviation from his usual showy style with lovely juicy, spicy fruit from per ha yield lower than savage Duncan to arrive at something reminiscent of Chateaux Rayas.

Also to please and surprise – De Trafford’s Touriga Nacional 09 – from Malgas, displaying both the Cape’s awesome potential and how far we have yet to go to work out which varieties go best where.

Another surprise was how the Merlot’s showed including Hartenberg and to lesser extent Overgaauw, both with some Cabernet and Hartenberg with Malbec. Although 2010, the Paul Cluver Pinot Noir managed to pip the 09s from Vriesenhof and Bouchard. I am also predicting good prices for Waterford 09, a very polished wine as is the Haskell 09 Expatriate (cab/shiraz).

And I just have to mention the Boplaas Port 06 – liquid Christmas cake, just more fruity!

At Nederburg the overall message is similar – a very strong line up of whites with the reds not far behind. The exception here is a few which I would regard as faulty including an oxidised Chenin and a few reds with hints of Brettanomyces. Some argue that if its light enough it adds to complexity.

Having said that I think that Carina Gous’ identifying tighter selection of wine as one of the reasons for last years success still applies.

While I am tempted yet again to plumb for a Sauvie as my best white of the day – Diemersdal Eight Rows 09 (a touch reduced to start) – I am going for the Mulderbosch Chardonnay 06 for its shear balance, elegance, integration etc, a truly delicious wine of long overdue restraint.  

Other Sauvies I enjoyed include the Nederburg 2009 (Bin D234), and the D252 (with some Semillon), and the Graham Beck Pheasants Run 09.

On the Chenin front the Rex Equus (Paardeberg) for its balance and intensity (with a touch of botrytis?). With Chardonnay, the freshness (2003) of the Nederburg Bin D270, the Jordan Nine Yards 2006, and for briefly transporting me to Burgundy, Uva Mira 09 which will be worth watching to see if the reserve price of R1200 per six is achieved -  I hope so.

The stand out reds on the day included the Nederburg Bin R172 Pinotage 2001 - Razvan's debut - displaying its Pinot Noir heritage in dark sour cherry and Umami venison notes. I was pleased an old favourite Le Bonheur Prima 01 showed so beautifully, of course I also love Sakkie’s Sauvignon Blanc in any vintage.

The Hartenberg McKenzie 03 was a master class in the modern opulent style with much polish and poise and the Le Riche 06 for… well being classic Le Riche. The stand out Shiraz was from La Motte 05, and I enjoyed the curry leaf notes of the Diemersfontein Malbec 05.

From the older vintages the Fleur du Cap Cabernet Sauvignon 1971 was like a Barolo in that it displayed lovely tar & roses and the Monis Marsala 1983 still showing  acidity to keep all those rich nutty and toffee notes together. And yes the Edelkeurs were good, esp the 06 for freshness. Also look out for 05 Eminence and Bredell's Cape Vintage 1994.

I hope that the prices of the wines are a reflection of their quality rather than vagaries like double dip recession. Stay tuned.  Nederburg is on 16, 17 September and CWG on 1 October. Don’t forget both offer a separate charity auction with less onerous registration procedures.

Jonathan Snashall

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