A huge sigh of relief as firm prices at the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction confirm price contagion contracted at last week’s Nederburg Auction has been stopped at the steps of the Convention Centre. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion for this commentator after tasting my way through three dozen wines and one brilliant Boplaas 1996 vintage potstill brandy at the ultimate public pre-auction tasting last night. At R250 a ticket, this final showcase confirmed the way to get people to buy your bottle is to get them to taste it. Forget foreign pundits (although Steve Tanzer and James Molesworth had been air freighted the wines and duly doled out their 90+ ratings on cue), rumours of five star nominations and sponsored radio spots, suck it and see works for me. In fact one wag (take a bow, EJ) noted this auction consumes more wine tasting samples than are offered for sale.
As for the wines on offer, my favourite red by the proverbial country mile was Etienne Le Riche’s Cabernet 2005. Made using traditional open tank fermentation it was simultaneously rich and elegant, and confirmation of the importance of vintage as I found the 2006 too oaky and too tomato leafy for me. Among the half dozen serious Shirazes (or should that be Syrahs), David Nieuwoudt’s Cederberg Teen Die Hoog has wonderful phenolic ripeness but Niels Verburg’s Wild Hoar takes the koek. A follow up on last year’s “two four listening” (his son was graded “two out of five for listening” at school) the name comes from the laatjie mishearing “wild boar” as “wild whore” reproduced as “hoar” for sensitive souls.
Jan Boland Coetzee’s Vriesenhof Pinot Noir 2005 was described by its author as “like walking in a damp, wet forest.” ‘nuff said while Gary and Cathy Jordan’s Sophia is Cobbler’s Hill on steroids and the 06 vintage is the sixth time this wine has been offered – nicely symmetric.
My biggest surprise was Carl Schultz’s Hartenberg Riesling 007. While the boring anorak argument re. Crouchen Blanc being called Riesling (or was it vice-versa?) seems to have now been settled to the pleasure of pedants, at the end of the day, what does it taste like? This one has attractive kerosene notes, a floral minerality and oily richness. That it was fermented and matured in classic Alastian style in old French oak confirms that searing acidity is not the only recipe for the world’s most elegant white grape on SA terroir.
Talking terroir, Elim is turning out to be the Promised Land for aromatic SA whites: Bruce Jack’s Weather Girl 06, David Nieuwoudt’s Semillon 07 and Louis Nel’s Lands End Sauvignon Blanc 08 making the point, in spades. On the subject of digging, “build it, and they’ll come” has long been the mantra of Mother City property developers. “Pour it, and they’ll buy” clearly works for the Cape Winemakers Guild when it comes to auctions.