Raising a glass to Cape wines

© Cape Times Friday 5th October 2012

As I write this, I am still recovering from one of the busiest weeks most South African wine folk have ever experienced. Cape Wine 2012 is probably the biggest wine trade show ever held in South Africa and this show marks a triumphant return after an absence of four years. Listening to buyers, bloggers, educators and journalists from around the world, it seems clear that not only was the show much missed in 2010 (it was decided it was best not to clash with the World Cup), but that in its absence, South African wine has taken significant steps upwards in terms of quality of wines. If you were following events on Twitter, you would have seen the likes of Matthew Jukes, Sarah Ahmed, Jamie Goode, Dr Vino and a host of other international palates tweeting about our amazing wines and what a fabulous time they’ve been having.

And if that weren’t enough, last weekend saw the Nederburg Auction and tomorrow sees the turn of the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction at Spier. The Nederburg Auction delivered its usual mix of glamour and glitz combined with lashings of good fizz and plenty of delicious food. Sales this year were down on last year with fewer international buyers making their presence felt over a fairly chilly and wet weekend. But of course the flipside of this means that there will be some fabulous bargains available on our shelves soon – my advice is to check out Spar, Checkers and Ultra Liquors who were amongst the biggest buyers and who sell the wines on at cost price or very low mark-ups. A perfect way to get to try some of the country’s best wines without breaking the bank. If you want to go along to the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction, then proceedings are open to all and it kicks off at 9am tomorrow at Spier with plenty of interesting, exclusive wines for canny bidders.

This is clearly silly season on the wine calendar with invitations coming in thick and fast and many people finding themselves at more than one event each day. This was the case a week or so ago when the Amorim Cap Classique awards lunch preceded the wine launch of the year and everyone’s most coveted ticket, as Steenberg released their new flagship white, the Magna Carta 2010. The launch took place on a chilly evening on the very shores of Hout Bay at Tintswalo Atlantic Lodge. Hidden away at the foot of Chapman’s Peak and only accessible by a scarily steep narrow road, this luxury lodge was a dramatic setting for the first taste of what is becoming one of the Cape’s icon white wines.

A blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc (which makes it a classic Bordeaux-style blend), 2010 is the first year that winemaker JD Pretorius has been solely responsible for the Magna Carta. Paired with exceptional food from Franck Dangereux from Food Barn (how this man is not in the Eat Out Top Twenty Restaurants is beyond me), the wine was fresh and youthful with notes of lemons, lemongrass, hints of waxiness and a long finish. It costs a slightly eye-watering R460 from the farm, but then again, only 3,000 bottles were made and if you have patience to wait awhile, I promise you it will be worth it. And the reason I know this is because we also drank the 2007 which was the maiden vintage of this wine and it was simply fabulous, proving itself quite as worthy to stand along the rather prestigious French wines which were also on the table. Amazing wine, food, setting – yes, I think this was definitely the Wine Launch of the Year.