Despite trying times and difficult logistics as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the 36th Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Action will go on, taking place on Saturday, October 3, 2020. This year, the event will be held in London, England, as opposed to within South Africa. For another first, it will be hosted live and online for bidding in partnership with international auction house Bonhams.
Long regarded as the country’s leading wine auction, the annual event offers both the general public and wine trade the opportunity to acquire rare, limited-edition and small-batch selections produced exclusively for the occasion by members of the Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG), an association of 46 of South Africa’s best winemakers.
Established in 1982, the Cape Winemakers Guild was formed to promote education, exploration and collaboration among South Africa’s top winemakers. Membership to the Guild is by invitation, and only extended to established winemakers that are recognized for their high standards and consistent quality of wine.
This year’s traditional auction releases are more limited than in previous years, with only 28 lots available this year compared to 45 last year. But quality is still clearly on display, with stunning selections across red, white and sparkling wine styles. From single-variety gems, like Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc to Shiraz and Pinot Noir, to stunning red and white blends, there are plenty of world-class wines to behold and try to get your hands on.
Items to watch for within year’s releases include those made from the fabulous 2015, 2017 and 2019 vintages, as well as those that exemplify some of the top-notch, avant-guard winemaking and experimentation that the Guild should be showcasing. Perfect examples of this would be current CWG Chair Andrea Mullineux’s 2015 Radicales Libres Chardonnay, an homage to the extended barrel-aged white wines of the Jura and Rioja, or Frans Smit’s 2017 Auction Selection from Spier, which is the CWG Auction’s first certified organic red wine on offer.
This year, in addition to the traditional auction, the Guild has added an additional lineup of offerings to a Vinotheque Auction. Available for bidding for roughly two weeks leading up to the Nedbank CWG Auction, the Vinotheque Auction features 50 items that range from single-selection lots to those that offer multiple wines or library CWG releases. All funds raised through this auction will be placed in a trust to help winemakers keep their businesses afloat in the aftermath of the novel coronavirus pandemic and assist winemakers in need to support employees through this challenging year.
To bid on items from either the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction or the CWG Vinotheque Auction, visit Bonhams at www.bonhams.com/register. Read below to check out our top-scoring 2020 Auction red and white wines, as well as a link to see all reviews of this year’s releases.
Top White Wines
Leeu Passant 2015 Cape Winemakers Guild Radicales Libres Chardonnay (Klein Karoo); 96 points. Winemaker: Andrea Mullineux. Inspired by the extended barrel-aged white wines of the Jura and Rioja, this Chardonnay was aged in barrel for five years after fermentation. The nose is mature and concentrated right off the bat, but still with a salted-nut freshness that offers surprising vibrancy to the toasted almond, creamed pear and baked apple characteristics. The palate is medium in weight yet vibrant, with more mouthwatering freshness and lemon-sea-spray salinity that complement the more mature and ripe fruit flavors. Final accents of fresh straw, honeydew rind, peach pit and dried yellow-apple skin lend depth and grace to the close.
Ataraxia 2019 Cape Winemakers Guild Under the Gavel Chardonnay (Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge); 95 points. Winemaker: Kevin Grant. This is pure and focused right off the bat, offering direct aromas of fresh-cut apple and underripe white peach partnered with delicate tones of pressed yellow flowers, orange blossom, lemon verbena and just a touch of fresh honeysuckle. The palate is light and bright, with a superb cut of lemony acidity that shoots a laser beam of focus through the sip and lands crisp and refreshing on the close. This is primary right now, but should mature and develop well through 2030.
Raats Family 2019 Cape Winemakers Guild The Fountain Terroir Specific Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch); 95 points. Winemaker: Bruwer Raats. This smells super fresh, pristine and pure, with moderate aromas of fresh pear slices, just-ripe honeydew, lightly honeyed apple slices, ripe orange and quince, coupled with delicate hints of fresh pressed fynbos and sweet grass. The palate is smooth and medium in weight, with rich orchard fruit and citrus tones that are partnered with lightly toasted straw and melon rind characteristics. Beautifully balanced, with bright acidity, a mineral streak and a long, evolving finish. Drink now through 2028.
Miles Mossop 2018 Cape Winemakers Guild Saskia-Jo (Swartland); 94 points. Winemaker: Miles Mossop. Ripe apple flesh, white melon rind, lime pith and a touch of rambutan form the nose of this clean, attractive white. A blend of 65% Chenin Blanc, 25% Clairette Blanche and 10% Grenache Blanc, hints of lanolin and just-dried grass add depth and interest, with a waxy characteristic that’s pleasantly attractive. The palate is medium in weight and strikes a superb balance between ripe fruit tones and bright, vibrant acidity, walking a masterful tightrope between the two. The finish shows notes of yellow apple, firm pear, citrus pith and waxy melon rind that hang around nicely.
Rijk’s 2018 Cape Winemakers Guild CWG Chenin Blanc (Tulbagh); 94 points. Winemaker: Pierre Wahl. This is quite toasty and oaky upfront right now, with pronounced aromas of wood-grilled apple, orange oil, custard and yellow melon. The palate is full and weighty, but not fat, with plush, mouth-filling toasted-fruit flavors that have a decadent, grilled edge and lingering impressions of sweet spice and toast on the finish. Impressions of yellow apple, musk melon, sweet braised fennel, straw and pie crust carry through on the close, with a kiss of honey on the way back as well as the lingering warmth of toasty baking-spice characteristics.
Top Red Wines
Kanonkop 2017 Cape Winemakers Guild CWG Paul Sauer (Simonsberg-Stellenbosch); 95 points. Winemaker: Abrie Beeslaar. An enticing smoky, lightly roasty accent leads the charge on the nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon-led bottling, with 17% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot. An earthy, tilled earth accent unfolds in the background and is complemented by dark, ripe fruit tones of blackberry, boysenberry and black plum. The palate is smooth and velvety, with plush, ripe tannins that lend support to the focused dark-fruit flavors as well as grip and length through the close. It’s a bit shy and closed right now, but you can tell the stuffing is all there for this to really flourish and shine with a few more years of age. Try after 2024 and through 2035.
Newton Johnson 2017 Cape Winemakers Guild Windansea Pinot Noir (Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley); 95 points. Winemaker: Gordon Newton Johnson. This is a beautiful Pinot Noir, with loads of earthy tones joined by baking spice and ripe black cherry, plum and wild strawberry. It boasts a subtle chocolaty accent, and just a hint of roasty, coffee character, but it’s not overly rich or decadent. The palate is silky and smooth, with bright acidity to lift the ripe berry tones and lend freshness to the layered finish. Touches of peppery spice and forest floor unfold on the back.
Delaire Graff 2016 Cape Winemakers Guild Banghoek Cabernet Franc-Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch); 94 points. Winemaker: Morné Vrey. There’s a beautiful lifted, spicy character on the nose of this wine, with oodles of sweet spice, toasted oak, licorice, tilled earth, pressed purple flowers and balsamic herbs all complementing a ripe black-fruit core. The palate is smooth and sultry, with fine yet supportive tannins that lend a strong structure and lasting grip through the evolving finish, which leads with plush red-fruit flesh and then evolves to waves of fruit skin, earthy spice and finally turned earth and leather. It can be enjoyed now, but should mature well through 2030.
Saronsberg 2017 Cape Winemakers Guild Die Erf Shiraz (Tulbagh); 94 points. Winemaker: Dewaldt Heyns. A block selection, this Shiraz boasts a gorgeous nose, with oodles of decadent sweet-baking spice, cocoa, brambly blackberry, boysenberry, black raspberry sauce and black cherry. It’s smooth and sultry, with a crushed-satin texture and fine yet supporting tannins matched with ample acidity which lends life and lift to the ripe black-fruit flavors and extends the length of the finish. A kiss of pepper flashes on the back of the close.
Spier 2017 Cape Winemakers Guild Frans K Smit Auction Selection (Stellenbosch); 94 points. Winemaker: Frans Smit. The CWG Auction’s first certified organic wine, this blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon is a surprising stunner. There’s a lovely balance to the nose of this wine, with pronounced fruit aromas of black plum, berry and cherry that are supported by accents of tree bark, fruit leather, licorice, bramble and boysenberry. Each sniff unveils more to discover, from fruit to earth to soil and spice. Medium in weight, there’s a purity and focus to the palate, balanced by a lovely subtle ripeness and licorice charge that fuels the finish. It’s superbly balanced between the ripe fruit, structured tannins, ample acidity and a long, lingering, evolving finish.
Click here to see all reviews of the CWG 2020 Auction wines.