It's always interesting when I sit down to taste through the annual release of Cape Winemakers Guild Auction wines. This year's lot, 47 wines in total, provided some compelling old school-styled Cabernets, a wide range of Rhône varietals and an eclectic mix of deliciously pure whites.
For background on these auction wines and the Cape Winemakers Guild, you can refer to my report on last year's wines here, as well as previous reports, as I've tasted the wines every year since the 2007 auction.
Essentially a club that polices itself, the Cape Winemakers Guild is made up of a hefty chunk of South Africa's best winemakers. For the auction, they bottle selected lots—one-offs, new single-vineyard bottlings, experimental blends and the like—that are not commercially released. The auction benefits the winemakers themselves, with a portion of the proceeds going to fund the guild protége program, which helps disadvantaged youths get into the wine industry.
In this year's lineup, I was particularly enthused by some of the Cabernet Sauvignon and blends. A few hail from the excellent 2012 vintage, including the alluring Ernie Els Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2012 (94 points, $NA), the loamy, minty de Trafford Perspective Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2012 (93, $NA) and the chunky, grip-filled Louis Nel Gonzo Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2012 (93, $NA). Other highlights from the Cab blends include the densely packed Kanonkop Paul Sauer Cape Winemakers Guild Simonsberg 2011 (94, $NA) and Rust en Vrede Estate Cape Winemakers Guild Stellenbosch 2011 (94, $NA).
For Rhône lovers, Syrah has become a worthy rival to Cabernet on the Cape, as evidenced by the impressive Boschkloof Syrah Stellenbosch Cape Winemakers Guild 2012 (93, $NA) and the Cederberg Shiraz Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Cape Winemakers Guild 2012 (92, $NA) which has been a standout for several vintages running now. Other Rhône varietals are in the mix too, including the higher-toned, pepper- and mineral-styled A.A. Badenhorst Family Cinsault Swartland Kalmoesfontein Ramnasgras Cape Winemakers Guild 2012 (92, $NA).
Whites are also interesting, as the group features South Africa's best varietal—Chenin Blanc—along with more prominent international varieties like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and some interesting blends. The Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch 1947 Cape Winemakers Guild 2013 (92, $NA) shows off the flattering side of the grape, with lush brioche and heather notes. Among blends, the Simonsig Roussanne-Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch The Red Ox Cape Winemakers Guild 2013 (93, $NA) is reminiscent of a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, showing Cavaillon melon, white peach and bitter orange notes. Evoking white Bordeaux, winemaker Duncan Savage's Cape Point Vineyards Auction Reserve Cape Winemakers Guild Cape Point 2013 (91, $NA) is a 50/50 blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc that delivers delightful white ginger, white peach and salted butter notes.
This year's auction is scheduled for Oct. 4. As usual, it is open to the public. Interested bidders can both register (by Sept. 26) and bid online. American consumers who purchase the wines will then need to make arrangements for shipping.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Blends
Features a core of boysenberry, blackberry and plum confiture flavors, studded with anise and bay notes. The finish gives way to well-tanned leather and black tea accents, showing an echo of iron. Holds ample grip in reserve. Serious juice. Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. Best from 2016 through 2022. 50 cases made. —J.M.
Well-packed, with mouthwatering flavors of black currant preserves, warmed fig and steeped black cherry fruit layered with leather, singed bay, roasted alder and tobacco notes. The long, loamy finish still has plenty of polish. Very impressive. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Best from 2016 through 2022. 38 cases made. —J.M.
Packed and dense, with terrific vibrancy and energy, this features mouthwatering flavors of red and black currant, roasted fig, raspberry coulis and plum sauce, offset by roasted apple wood and alder notes. A dark, loamy spine drives the finish. A gorgeous echo of savory stitches this up beautifully. Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Best from 2016 through 2022. 33 cases made. —J.M.
Presents a lovely mélange of roasted tobacco leaf, sage and mint notes, weaving around a core of steeped plum and macerated dark currant fruit, all set against a loamy backdrop. A bittersweet cocoa hint leads to a flicker of iron on the finish. Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Drink now through 2017. 52 cases made. —J.M.
Still has a chunky frame, with licorice snap, loam and espresso notes wrestling with the core of plum sauce, warmed fig and blackberry confiture flavors. Everything is in place, showing fresh acidity and mouthwatering grip. Needs to harmonize in the cellar. Cabernet Sauvignon. Best from 2016 through 2020. 65 cases made. —J.M.
An alluring, old-school version, with dark olive, leather and baker's chocolate notes leading the way, followed by steeped plum, fig and black currant paste flavors. The long, loamy finish pulls everything together. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Drink now through 2018. 90 cases made. —J.M.
A sleek, tangy, mineral-driven style, with prominent sanguine and iron notes that hold the damson plum, black cherry and red currant fruit together while sage and olive hints line the finish. Shows good cut and drive. Best from 2016 through 2019. 33 cases made. —J.M.
Offers a gutsy, briary feel, with dark plum, anise, licorice root and ganache notes all wound together and carrying through a tar-edged finish. Drink now through 2018. 49 cases made. —J.M.
A chunky, grippy style, with plenty of heft despite the extra bottle age, as bittersweet cocoa, fig, dried currant, roasted cedar and tar notes all roll together through the lightly roasted finish. Has a slightly chewy feel overall, but ample flesh and density adds balance. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot. Drink now through 2017. 87 cases made. —J.M.
Delivers espresso, bittersweet cocoa, dark olive and mulled currant and fig notes, all carried by tar and loam hints through a slightly chewy finish. A mature, old-school version, with ample stuffing and life. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot. Drink now through 2017. 68 cases made. —J.M.
This has matured already, with mint, bay and coffee notes taking the lead over lightly mulled currant and blackberry fruit. Leather and tobacco nuances line the finish. Decidedly old-school and ready to drink. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. Drink now through 2016. 37 cases made. —J.M.
Syrah and Other Rhône Varietals
Gorgeous from start to finish, this pulls ganache, anise, blackberry pâte de fruit, plum sauce, black tea, mint and graphite notes together seamlessly and lets them carry through the lengthy, velvety finish. Delivers fruit in spades but remains grounded in terroir. Drink now through 2024. 50 cases made. —J.M.
A dense, muscular style, with a wide ganache frame around a core of hefty fig paste, plum sauce and blackberry pâte de fruit flavors. The finish picks up charcoal and bittersweet cocoa notes for added texture and length, though the fruit holds sway all the way through. Best from 2016 through 2019. 35 cases made. —J.M.
Lovely, with lightly mulled raspberry and loganberry fruit, lined with white pepper, tobacco leaf, rooibos tea and iron notes. The briary grip is well-embedded, letting the pure fruit mingle with a sanguine edge through the finish. Distinctive. Drink now through 2017. 25 cases made. —J.M.
A ripe, polished style, with blackberry cobbler, blueberry compote and macerated fig flavors, carried by lively anise and roasted apple wood notes. The long, juicy finish lets the fruit pump through. Rock-solid. Drink now through 2018. 43 cases made. —J.M.
Exuberant and pure, this pumps out loganberry, plum and boysenberry fruit, flecked with mouthwatering anise and white pepper notes all supported by live-wire, brambly tannins. Exhibits great energy, range and tension through the finish. Drink now through 2018. 75 cases made. —J.M.
An earth-driven style, with a fresh humus note weaving through the core of warmed plum, blackberry coulis and black currant fruit. Lots of bay and tobacco accents line the finish, along with a fine-grained, cedary edge. Shows character. Drink now through 2018. 52 cases made. —J.M.
A lively, peppery style, with a pronounced olive and tobacco frame around a core of steeped plum and black currant fruit. Bay and roasted cedar notes hold the slightly grainy finish. For fans of the rustic style. Drink now through 2016. 46 cases made. —J.M.
This has mellowed, but the weight and freshness supports the layers of raspberry ganache, plum sauce and black licorice. A hefty charcoal edge takes over on the finish. Drink now. 28 cases made. —J.M.
A fleshy, smoky style, with warmed plum and fig notes lined with hints of ganache, tobacco and mint. The broad finish is backed by a light charcoal edge. Shows good range, but comes up a little short on refinement. Drink now through 2016. 48 cases made. —J.M.
A tangy, herb-tinged style, with a core of damson plum, bitter cherry and pomegranate fruit, laced with green olive and savory notes. Tangy sanguine and cedar details hold the finish. Drink now through 2016. 39 cases made. —J.M.
A ripe, friendly style, with plum cake, licorice and blackberry compote notes lined with a subtle minty edge. The finish glides along with judicious toast. Drink now through 2016. 50 cases made. —J.M.
Still tightly coiled, with a gorgeous core of damson plum, red currant and blackberry pâte de fruit flavors, supported by an iron spine. Notes of black tea, bergamot and mesquite lurk in the background for now, and should emerge more with cellaring. Sleek, focused and very long. Best from 2016 through 2020. 30 cases made. —J.M.
Very silky, with gorgeous blackberry, raspberry and cherry fruit flavors, lined with notes of star anise, bramble and black tea. A lovely tug of dark earth echoes through the finish. Drink now through 2016. 101 cases made. —J.M.
This unfurls with a gorgeous mint note, backed by warmed ganache, plum sauce, fig and black currant flavors. Long and velvety through the finish, with iron and mint accents wafting through. A lovely version of the old-school style. Drink now through 2017. 35 cases made. —J.M.
A burly, grippy style, with ganache and espresso notes framing the score of steeped plum and black currant fruit. Dark olive, bay and sage accents line the finish, which has a slightly tarry feel. For fans of the style. Drink now through 2017. 28 cases made. —J.M.
A juicy, fleshy, mouthfilling style, with a bold mocha note leading the way, followed by energetic flavors of fig, boysenberry and plum preserves. Ample anise and fruitcake details pump through the rounded finish. A bit amped-up stylistically, but successful nonetheless. Drink now through 2017. 27 cases made. —J.M.
Perfumy, with lots of singed sandalwood and warmed cinnamon stick notes leading the way for supple flavors of cherry preserves and damson plum compote. The silky finish lets the cinnamon accent linger. Alluring. Drink now. 77 cases made. —J.M.
Juicy and direct, with a sassafras note leading the way for blackberry and bitter cherry fruit flavors. Briar and sanguine hints line the finish. Drink now. 60 cases made. —J.M.
This sports lots of singed savory and tobacco notes, along with dark olive, roasted cedar and mulled plum fruit. A tarry backdrop on the finish adds spine and grip. An old-school style, with a slightly rugged feel. Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Drink now through 2017. 21 cases made. —J.M.
The mulled cherry and currant fruit is laced with star anise, black tea and sassafras notes. Shows good energy through the finish. Drink now. 46 cases made. —J.M.
White and Dessert
This takes the usual toasted hazelnut, brioche, apple and pear components of the grape and adds in extra nectarine, bitter orange and green tea details, lending this more dimension and cut through the finish, with well-embedded acidity. Drink now through 2016. 31 cases made. —J.M.
Cavaillon melon, white peach and heather notes form the core, accented by a flash of bitter orange. Rounded, plump and energetic, this is also very pure, with a light mineral edge giving way to the gorgeous fruit on the finish. Drink now through 2017. 43 cases made. —J.M.
Reveals a touch of toast, with brioche and shortbread notes framing a core of salted butter, honeysuckle and white peach. A nectarine echo emerges on the finish. Very alluring. Drink now through 2016. 50 cases made. —J.M.
Lush, with gorgeous heather, brioche, peach, apricot and yellow apple notes all melded together and flowing through the broad but defined finish, where a lovely hint of verbena chimes in. Drink now through 2017. 70 cases made. —J.M.
This has an attractive note of warm shortbread out front, followed by ginger, honeysuckle, verbena and green and yellow apple fruit flavors. The finish picks up a candied citrus peel edge. A crowd-pleaser. Chardonnay. Drink now. 30 cases made. —J.M.
Lovely white ginger, white peach, honeysuckle and salted butter notes all weave together here, finishing with a hint of brioche on the finish. Has zip, but this is more alluring than racy overall. Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Drink now through 2016. 30 cases made. —J.M.
Alluring Jonagold apple, honeysuckle, heather and white peach flavors glide along, framed with a note of matchstick. A lovely hazelnut echo chimes in on the finish. Drink now through 2016. 43 cases made. —J.M.
Offers bracing chive, flint and gooseberry notes, with a flicker of mâche through the finish. Very pure and tightly focused. Drink now through 2016. 50 cases made. —J.M.
Bracing, with bitter orange, nectarine, peach pit and makrut lime notes that race along, lined with a hint of savory and carrying through a mineral-edged finish. This should unwind well, bolstered by plenty of tension and energy. Sémillon. Best from 2016 through 2018. 40 cases made. —J.M.
A toasty, flattering style, with warm brioche and piecrust notes out front, followed by ginger, creamed pear, green plum and hazelnut flavors. Offers a broad, ripe finish. Drink now. 40 cases made. —J.M.
Gorgeous nectarine, freshly sliced ginger, singed almond and tangerine notes are layered here, giving way to a hint of spiced apple. Juicy and flattering, this should be a crowd-pleaser with brief cellaring. Drink now. 40 cases made. —J.M.
Lively gooseberry and white asparagus notes are lined with hints of honeysuckle and talc. A pretty echo of straw shows on the finish. Sauvignon Blanc. Drink now through 2016. 30 cases made. —J.M.
A core of melon and mango fruit is offset by bright acidity and a lilting floral edge. A long verbena thread stretches through the deftly toasted finish. Drink now through 2016. 62 cases made. —J.M.
The inviting pineapple, ginger, nectarine and peach aromas and flavors are allied to a creamy, corpulent texture and an unctuous finish, enlivened a touch of dried orange peel. Flattering, though a little shy on lift. Viognier. Drink now. 65 cases made. —J.M.
Shows a mature edge, with a toasty frame around a core of open-knit ginger, piecrust, warmed apple and ginger notes. A graham cracker edge lingers on the finish. Tasty and flattering, though just a touch shy on zip in the end. Drink now. 28 cases made. —J.M.