Top Wines of the 2017 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction | Wine Enthusiast
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Top Wines of the 2017 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction

This year marks the 33rd annual Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction, a South African event recognized as the country’s leading wine auction open to both the general public and wine trade. Taking place on Saturday, September 30 at Spier Conference Centre in Stellenbosch, it features rare, limited edition and small-batch selections produced exclusively for the event by members of the Cape Winemakers Guild, an association of 49 of South Africa’s best winemakers.

It’s a chance to acquire unicorn cuvées from some of the top winemakers in the country. With little doubt U.S. interest in South African wine is on the rise thanks to double-digit volume growth in the first half of 2017 over 2016, there’s no better time to build your collection or stock your cellar.

Membership to the Cape Winemakers Guild is by invitation only. It is extended to winemakers recognized for their high standards of craftsmanship that have been producing outstanding wines for a minimum of five years and are actively involved in the winemaking operations of a cellar from harvest to bottling.

The wines the Cape Winemakers Guild members supply to the auction are created exclusively for the event, and cannot be sold commercially elsewhere. They all bear a Cape Winemakers Guild label (though the capsule is subject to the winemaker’s personal or brand aesthetic), which carries a distinct gravitas and assurance for the quality of the juice inside the bottle. All of the auction wines are subject to rigorous scrutiny by the Guild’s tasting panel and tested by an independent laboratory.

The intent of these wines is to represent winemaking excellence, raising the standard and international reputation of South African wines. And they do not disappoint. In our blind tasting of this year’s wines, virtually all of them rate 90 points or higher on our 100-point scale, and the majority are Cellar Selections that will mature magnificently over the next 5–15 years, in some cases, even more.

There are 65 items on auction this year, including 42 red wines, 18 white wines and one Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wine. For more information about the Guild’s 33rd auction on September 30, 2017, or to sign up for proxy bidding, visit

Top White Wines

Paul Cluver 2016 Cape Winemakers Guild Wagon Wheel Chardonnay (Elgin); 94 points. Winemaker: Andries Burger. Always a stunner, the 2016 Wagon Trail delivers impeccable balance, freshness and minerality that can easily translate to the wine being mistaken for one from another iconic Old World Chardonnay region, and probably at about five times the price. It’s decadently ripe and toasty, with present yet refined notes of baked apple, lemon meringue and toasted hazelnut that leave you begging for more. The rich mouthfeel is immediately countered by superb, bright acidity and stony minerality before veering back into notes of toasted brioche and spiced citrus peel on the endless finish. A true stunner that will age well through 2028.

DeMorgenzon 2016 Cape Winemakers Guild Roussanne (Stellenbosch); 93 points. Winemaker: Carl van der Merwe. This is Winemaker Carl van der Merwe’s first CWG auction wine (along with his Gravitas red blend), and it is a stunner right out of the gate. The nose opens with fresh yet ripe notes of waxy melon and peach, kissed by hints of dried fynbos and lightly toasted oak. The medium-weight palate is similarly concentrated and well balanced, with ample acidity and a subtle tannic texture that adds length to the long, evolving finish. While it’s certainly delicious now, this will age well through 2023.

Ataraxia 2016 Cape Winemakers Guild Under The Gavel Chardonnay (Hemel en Aarde); 93 points. Winemaker: Kevin Grant. Under the Gavel is always a stunning CWG selection, and the 2016 continues to deliver. It’s rich and ripe right from the start, with opulent scents of wood-grilled peach, honeydew and toasted brioche that entice and delight. The medium-weight palate is smooth and seductive, but ultimately balanced by a great cut of lemony acidity and a saline minerality that refreshes the finish. It’s powerful, but not overly so, with all the elements in balance, meaning it should age gracefully through 2025.

Top Red Wines

Adi Badenhorst & Duncan Savage 2016 Cape Winemakers Guild Love Boat Red (Swartland); 94 points. Winemakers: Adi Badenhorst & Duncan Savage. A blend of 65% Shiraz, 27% Grenache and 8% Cinsault, this blend made by two friends is bright and vibrant, much like their personalities. The bouquet is brimming with fruity character, expressed in waves of boysenberry, blueberry and raspberry, all hit by accents of pressed purple violets and fresh fynbos. The medium-weight palate is full in body and flavor, with a texture like crushed velvet and lingering flavors of spiced berries and chewy chocolate brownie on the long, evolving finish. A baby right now, though delicious, it should age well through 2026.

Newton Johnson 2016 Cape Winemakers Guild Windansea Pinot Noir (Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley); 92 points. Winemaker: Gordon Newton Johnson. This is such a pretty and elegant Pinot, certainly not what most would expect from a “New World” wine region. It expresses the masterful balance that South African Pinot can achieve in the New World style of ripe red-fruit character with the Old World finesse of bright acidity and an earthy, forest-floor dominance. Pressed floral tones are partnered with notes of red cherry, cola spice and sous bois throughout. Silky and smooth, it offers soft, fine tannins that somehow still manage to provide a present structure for overall balance and harmony. Drink now–2023.

Boekenhoutskloof 2015 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Franschhoek); 94 points. Winemaker: Marc Kent. Though perhaps better known for his classic Boekenhoutskloof Syrah or Semillon, do NOT underestimate the power and beauty of Marc Kent’s Cabernet. This is a real stunner, packed full of well-balanced and -composed power that suggests this is a wine indented for the long haul. It’s loaded with ripe, dense black-fruit aromas and flavors, expressed in waves of black plum, berry and cherry that are accented by pleasant hints of green pepper, licorice root and charred bark. It’s bold and firmly structured on the palate, with robust tannins that linger long on the chewy, cigar-box spiced finish. Drink 2022–2028.

To see the full list of reviews for this year’s auction wines, click here.