‘Saturday, 7th September 1985 at 10.00am precisely’ is recorded as the then Cape Independent Winemakers’ Guild first auction of Rare Cape Wines (the ‘Independent’ has since been dropped). Auctioneer. David Molyneux-Berry MW knocked down 17 wines from 13 members at The Rosebank Hotel, Johannesburg. Of those, some have moved to other farms; the only members still on the same farms (all family-owned) are: Jan ‘Boland’ Coetzee (Vriesenhof), Johan Malan (Simonsig) and Jeff Grier (Villiera).
The Guild, founded three years’ earlier, now has 49 members with its 33rd auction due to be held at Spier on 30th September; 61 wines will go under the gavel of the persuasive Henré Hablutzel of Hofmeyr Mills Auctioneers, who will be recording his own 20th CWG auction.
If the auction is seen as the glamourous side of the Guild, it also has a serious side. Since 2006, the Protégé programme has given selected aspirant winemakers the opportunity to work with different members of the Guild over a three year period. In 2014, a Viticulture Protégé programme in conjunction with Vinpro was launched. Funds for both programmes are raised the charity and silent auctions held during that of Guild members’ own wines.
I asked two protégés in their final year – Elsenburg graduates, Clayton Christians, currently working with Gordon Newton Johnson on his family’s farm and Kiara Scott, on DeMorgenzon with Carl van der Merwe – what attracted them to wine and the major benefits of being on the CWG Protégé programme, apart from working with some of South Africa’s top winemakers?
Christians, from Stellenbosch, loves wine as a natural product that’s forever changing; ‘it will always challenge me’, he claims. As a protégé, he’s had the opportunity to taste great wines from around the world and learn from Guild members’ own opinions. He also believes being exposed to marketing and PR sides of the wine world equip him with skills which will help when he goes job hunting.
Scott, who lives in Strandfontein, always said she didn’t want an office job; ‘The thought of spending time in the vineyard and being hands on in creating something both complex and alive was alluring. As both art and science, winemaking is mentally stimulating.’ She sees the Protégé programme as providing all the essential building blocks to become a great winemaker.
Stellenbosch BSc graduate, Logan Jooste is also the first graduate from the Viticulture Protégé programme and now working with winemaker, Ronell Wiid on Bartinney. His initial intention was to become a winemaker until, spurred by a love of nature, his enthusiasm for viticulture grew during his BSc studies. Apart from ensuring the vineyards deliver optimal quality fruit, Jooste considers it’s important a viticulturist tastes the wine made from that fruit. ‘I need to have an idea of the winemaker’s intention and therefore how to manage the vineyard and what viticultural practices to apply,’ he explains. He views Bartinney’s older blocks, some around 26 years old, as both a positive, delivering great quality, but also a challenge due to their low yields.
Protégés, either still in the programme or working in the wine industry, now number close to 30, building, one hopes, a solid backbone for a more diverse future.
Diversity is a satisfying aspect of this year’s auction line up; many are genuinely different rather than just the named varietal make up. The following a short list of 10 from a long list of 17 which particularly impressed me at the recent blind tasting.
Silverthorn Big Dog III
Méthode Cap Classique. Unmistakably chardonnay in its creamy, nutty development.
Simonsig Die Kluisenaar Roussanne-Marsanne 2016
Elegant yet heady floral aromas, shot silk texture, fresh with a firm, long finish.
DeMorgenzon 2016 Roussanne
Ripe, sunny floral aromas. Rich but not heavy. Breadth of flavour with tangy finishing uplift.
Edgebaston Rooi Trekker 2016 Viognier
Understated spice, balanced freshness & long finish.
Jordan CWG 2016 Chardonnay
Vibrant citrusy topping to creamy texture. Elegant.
Paul Cluver Auction Selection 2015 Pinot noir
Gorgeous, complex fruit; sous bois, dark cherries. Supple feel, dry savoury finish. Classy.
Leeu Passant Old Vines 2015 Cinsaut
Deep redcurrants, raspberry jam aromas but not jammy. Concentrated, long with fine grip. Serious wine.
Kaapzicht Estate Rouge de Kaap 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsaut
Good blend; whole greater than sum of its parts. Still closed. Flavoursome spice, black/red fruits. Dry.
Spier Auction Selection Frans K Smit 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Natural, fresh feel. Good intensity, length & charm. Each variety adds complexity.
Cederberg Teen Die Hoog 2015 Shiraz
Aromatic spice, red fruit layers. Concentrated, integrated natural freshness. Long & dry.