Cape Wine 2015 – some reflections

Last week, thousands of trade and media from all over the world converged on the Cape Town Convention Centre for the three days of the now triennial showcase, Cape Wine.
Listening to and reading comments after the event, it appears pretty much everyone was impressed by what was deemed a world-class show.

It was a wise decision to change the gap between these exhibitions from two to three years (there were four between 2008 and 2012 because of the World Cup). As was correctly suggested after 2012, there is much more that’s new with a three year break.

Bearing in mind that only about a third of all producers participated, it’s clear the winelands are abuzz with activity.

For myself, I went with a plan, one I inevitably didn’t complete. ‘You must taste this or meet so-and-so’ frequently diverted my plan, but it’s good to have time to chat to new producers when their stalls aren’t inundated by others.

One where I did just that was Olifantsberg and its Dutch owner, ex tax-accountant, Paul Leeuwerik. ‘Turn right 5 kms off the Worcester/Ceres road, another 2 kms on a dirt track and you’ve reached us.’ I shall be following his directions once we’ve decided on a suitable date for my visit. When someone successfully crafts a serious Blanc de Noir, you know they’re worth taking notice of. Fermented in large oak, lees-aged in tanks, Olifantsberg’s salmon-hued, flavoursome ‘noir’ from shiraz just begs tuna. Oliftantsberg arrived on the radar when its Silhouette shiraz-based red blend won a trophy on this year’s Trophy Wine Show, but my Cape Wine experience confirmed all the wines have similar purity and interest. The vines are still young; I anticipate much greater things as they age. Definitely a winery to watch.

Jocelyn Wilson Hogan with her excellent Swartland old vine chenin.
Jocelyn Wilson Hogan with her excellent Swartland old vine chenin.

As is Hogan. Jocelyn Wilson Hogan worked at several international and local wineries including La Bri, before starting her own label with an impressive chenin blanc from Swartland old vines, vinified as naturally as possible in old oak. She had both the maiden 2014 and as yet unbottled 2015 for tasting. While the latter is the more complex wine, living up to the vintage hype, 2014 will certainly help put Hogan on the map.

As will the B Vintners Vine Exploration Co’s whole range. I couldn’t make the launch of Gavin Bruwer Slabbert & cousin, Bruwer Raats’ new venture, but didn’t miss this opportunity. What a great range! Like the Cravens, B Vintners are showing Stellenbosch can also do character and concentration without a new oak crutch and 15% alcohol. Harlem to Hope, a blend of chenin, semillon with a whiff of muscat; De Alexandria straight Muscat d’A both inspired, but the wine which pleased me most is Strandwolf Chardonnay, with its purity of dainty lemon, lime freshness, persistence and just 12.5% alcohol. Talk about shaking up Stellenbosch!

Much of the buzz focused on chenin and cinsaut. Standouts were Ryan Mostert’s Silverwis and Smiley labels; the chenins more vinous than fruity, with lowish alcohols but lees-aging giving them dimension, so very much in today’s mode; the cinsaut rejoicing in its wild strawberry fruit and freshness. Ian Naudé’s Old Vine Cinsaut, with slightly more silky sophistication, again has that delicious, fresh wild strawberry fruit and ready drinkability. Cinsaut is absolutely the answer to a summer lunchtime red wine.

Naudé’s Old Vine semillon packs an awful lot that’s flavoursome into 11% alcohol. Wynand Grobler (Rickety Bridge winemaker) also gave me a preview of his own Road to Santiago semillon from the Landau’s 100-year plus vineyard. Both will further shine with age and especially with food. If you prefer your semillon with sauvignon blanc, the new One Man Band from Iona only adds lustre to the genre with its polish and personality. Look out for big successes next year (it wasn’t submitted for Platter this year).

Pinot noir is another lunchtime red. Johan ‘Stompie’ Meyer might be better known for his Mount Abora wines, but under his own label he produces, among other wines, three pinots from different regions: Elgin, Elandskloof and, my favourite the complex Outeniqua. Meyer was part of the fabulous, fun Zoo Biscuits stand, a group of 15 ‘young and restless’ producers who showed the benefit of working together. They certainly gave the Swartland Independent Producers (motto: S.I.P or Swallow!) a run in the popularity stakes.

Shorts and flip-flops set the fashion at the Zoo Biscuits' stand. This didn't stop the queues to taste the wines.
Shorts and flip-flops set the fashion at the Zoo Biscuits’ stand. This didn’t stop the queues to taste the wines.

There was so much more to excite (at last I tasted through the whole of Sam O’Keefe’s Lismore range; the raves are all justified) but readers are going to end up as exhausted as I was at the end of Day one.

But I cannot resist two standout events:
Standout tasting: South African Greats – decades of terroir, where ten vintages of Warwick Trilogy, Eben Sadie’s Columella, Kanonkop Paul Sauer, Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, Vilafonté Series C, Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz and Klein Constantia Vin de Constance were presented. I completed the first four, plus a couple of Gravel Hill before giving up (it was the end of Day one).

Two memories: Trilogy 1989, the oldest red, is still singing; 2006 as a vintage is faring much better than the more highly rated 2005. I tasted the latest, 2011 Vin de Constance the following day. Fresher, more zingy and boasting gorgeous fruit, this is the best for many vintages.

Standout seminar: (okay, I attended only one) Rosa Kruger’s Listening to the Landscape – the typicity of our terroir, which attracted standing-room only (including, as Rosa told me, a handful of real boere grape farmers!). Memorable quotes: ‘We don’t always know from science; there are amazing vineyards that defy where they grow and produce great wine.’ Rosa Kruger. ‘Thanks to reliable French sources, new varieties and clones require only one year in quarantine.’ Nico Spreeth, CEO of Vititec. ‘We’ve got to plant what belongs, not what sells.’ Eben Sadie.

(l - r) Newton Johnson Albarino, Sadie Family Verdellho, Assyrtiko, Mencia and Agiorgitiko, Bosman Wines Nero d'Avola. New varieties tasted at Rosa Kruger's seminar.
(l – r) Newton Johnson Albarino, Sadie Family Verdellho, Assyrtiko, Mencia and Agiorgitiko, Bosman Wines Nero d’Avola. New varieties tasted at Rosa Kruger’s seminar.

Remember the names: Albarino, Assyrtiko, Mencia and Agiorgitiko. They are Spanish and Greek varieties that could be adding much further excitement to the Cape’s wine spectrum.

Roll on Cape Wine 2018!

Leon Coetzee of Fledge & Co, Calitzdorp & Gavin Brand of Cape Rock , Vredendal, showing great wines from either end of the Cape winelands.
Leon Coetzee of Fledge & Co, Calitzdorp & Gavin Brand of Cape Rock , Vredendal, showing great wines from either end of the Cape winelands.
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