Possibly the Cape Vintners Classification requirement that would be the easiest for the consumer to understand is that relating to the wines’ consistency. To qualify for the CVC seal, five vintages of a wine have to reflect uniformity of variety or style, if a blend, terroir and quality as assessed by a panel, including independent judges.
Twenty two of these accredited wines (11 pairs of a young and older wine), from 11 producer members were presented to guests including media, retailers and WOSA, at Kanonkop last week.
To a certain extent, all fulfilled that goal, some with more conviction than others. Anthonij Rupert Cape of Good Hope Van Lill & Visser Chenin Blanc 2017 and 2019 provided a positive start, showing natural freshness, vitality, a bit of grip and subtle yet concentrated flavours, as reflected in many Skurfberg chenins.
Lourensford Viognier was less successful, possibly because of some differing vinification methods. I didn’t have a chance to try the Cap Classique served as a welcome drink.
Of the chardonnays, the pair that gave me most pleasure were the De Wetshof Bateleur 2018 and 2009, which clearly reflect the same site – showing bright lemon and chalky textured – they also benefit from vine age, the vineyard, planted in 1987, was one of the earliest. A less heavy hand with oak, especially in the younger wine, enhances their distinction. If I didn’t care so much for the Almenkerk, nor DeMorgenzon, both presented 2014 and 2018, the wines maintained the seal’s objective.
Tasting is subjective and I know Diemersdal pinotage wasn’t popular with everyone, yet the 2017 and 2019 were of a family, one in riper, juicier mode with fragrant raspberry flavours and telling yet well-formed tannins.
It was difficult to say whether Groot Constantia Gouveneurs Reserve Red 2006 and 2017 follow the required pattern, as the former had the typical tomato-leaf notes of stressed, virused vines. By 2017, new cleaner vine material was producing the purer, riper fruit one might expect..
Kanonkop Paul Sauer 1995 and 2017; need more be said. Well, yes, the ’95 does. I’ve had two bottles recently, one corked and the replacement, not entirely clean. This third was, thankfully, perfect, as was 2017, my first taste of this vintage. It’s a glorious wine, beautifully balanced, precise, fragrant fruit, seamlessly enjoyable now but with a great future.
Morgenster Estate 2003 has also matured excellently with lead pencils bouquet, cabernet-led structure, well-fleshed tannins and properly dry. The younger 2018, which includes petit verdot with dab, merlot and cab franc, seems fleshier, less austere and bigger but also the framework for ageing.
Vergelegen GVB 2001, this bottle at least, has reached the end of its life, noticeably drying out; 2015 more than makes up for it with gorgeous cedary scents, fresh and silky blackberry flesh and polished tannin support.
The final pairing was the most interesting, simply because of the odd bed-fellows. Waterford The Jem mixes Bordeaux varieties (mainly cabernet) with Rhône (Shiraz, mourvèdre) with Italy (sangiovese, barbera). Percentages don’t differ that much in 2005 and 2015; but the former seems more cabernet-oriented, 2015 with more spice, suppleness and Rhône-like. Most attractive and intriguing.
Back to the meeting and its main purpose: an update from CVC Chairman, Johann Krige on recent developments in this body, which has slumbered for some eight years since its premature launch.
So what is meant by ‘member’, ‘regulations’ and ‘seal’?
There are currently 15 members; In addition the above farms, Delaire Graff, Lanzerac, Simonsig and Wildekrans are also part of the group. Criteria for becoming a member include grapes have to come from a vineyard owned by the producer or under a long-term agreement (it used to require the property to be registered to produce Estate wine but that was dropped.) The origin is important in order for the wine to reflect a sense of terroir, the distinction and consistency required to qualify for the seal, which confirms success in the five-year tasting.
I asked Johann Krige how many wines have failed this tasting; without having exact figures, he reckons about 40%, which does suggest a credible level of rigour.
Farming in an environmental sustainable way, and ethical treatment of all involved, whether on the home farm or outside vineyard are required; so IPW and WIETA accreditation are necessary.
Harking back to the old Estate system, parts of which the CVC has carried over, the farm has to have a cellar and a tasting room whose ‘facilities exceed global expectations’, however those are defined.
If the goal of raising South Africa’s image for wines of distinction and priced accordingly, that is admirable and as it should be, but if the concept remains complicated to those who attended the briefing, then it must mean little to nothing to the average consumer. One only has to think of the Old Vine Project and Chenin Blanc Association, how both have been understood and enthusiastically taken up by consumers, to realise that the ‘keep it straight and simple’ message regularly conveyed meets with success.
This is what the CVC is going to need to do to make any impact; they now have a new, younger group of Board members, including Joris Almenkerk, Thys Louw and Johann de Wet. They need to bring dynamism and clarity to marketing the CVC if it’s not to slumber on. For now, I retain some doubts.