Saturday, September 5, 2015

Hong Kong

Blind Tasting of South African Wines

From Hong Kong 太太 and WSET Educator Ivy Ng shared notes of blind tasting of South African wines on August 24.

Greg De’eb of Crown Wine Cellars is known for his knowledge and collection of mature South African wines and has often surprised dinner guests with bottles from his collection in blind tasting. Yet this HK Wine Society Vintage South African dinner was the first time he had organised a blind tasting of so many bottles from his personal collection, including a number that came from the famous Cape Winemakers Guild auction. We could call this a prelude to the two tastings at Crown Wine Cellars in September (8th and 15th) that would showcase samples from the upcoming auction on 3 October.  

This year will be the 31st Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction which started in 1985, and will see 55 exceptionally crafted wines go under the hammer in Stellenbosch. Over the years, this Auction has enthralled private collectors, wine enthusiasts and on-trade representatives with limited volumes of wines of benchmarking excellence, individual character and enduring worth, made exclusively for the auction by members of the Guild. Excitement for the 2015 auction is particularly hyped for its lower quantity, with 258 fewer cases than last year’s auction. The 55 wines comprise 34 reds, 17 whites, 3 MCCs (Méthode Cap Classique) and a straw wine, making a total of 2,575 cases (each case being 6 x 750 ml). The pursuit of excellence amongst Guild members has led to the showcasing of the first ever Barbera making auction debut and a Cape Portuguese blend, being the first Calitzdorp-style red blend with 3 classic Port varieties with Shiraz.
On this evening, however, we tasted 12 reds, all from Stellenbosch, with ages varying between 14 and 18 years. In keeping with the HK Wine Society tradition, we all wrote brief notes and scored the wines, before ranking them in order of 1 to 12, with 1 being the top wine and 12 the least favourite. Everyone’s ratings were tallied and the wine with the highest number would be the least favourite wine and the wine with the lowest aggregated number would be the group’s top wine.

The group’s results were as follows (starting with 1st place):

1. 2001 Vergelegen Flagship

2. 1997 CWG L’Avenir Estate Pinotage Reserve

3. 1999 CWG Thelema Cabernet

4. 1999 Vergelegen Flagship (Cabernet/Merlot) – nicknamed Haut Brion bacon by the Society’s President Vernon Moore, as members alluded to its claret-like pencil shavings and cigar smoke nuances, as well as a distinct savoury, bacon note.

5. 1998 Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon

6. 2000 Vergelegen Flagship

7. 1997 CWG Zevenwacht Shiraz Reserve

7. 1999 CWG L’Avenir Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

9. 1999 CWG Grangehurst Cabernet Sauvignon

10. 1997 CWG Morgenhof Auction Reserve

11. 1998 Graham Beck Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Select

12. 1998 L’Avenir Cabernet Sauvignon

As Greg summarised it in his opening remark before dinner started, this tasting certainly proved that South African wines with their Old World heritage could shine if only we consumers could have the patience to cellar them and enjoy them with maturity so that their full potential could be revealed and admired. He had prepared another set of exciting wines for us to experience at dinner. 

Guy Llewellyn, Club Manager and also Executive Chef of Crown Wine Cellars, had gone to great lengths to replicate some of South Africa’s signature dishes, including Cape Malay Bobotie, served with avocado, biltong and thyme vinaigrette, with its Indonesian heritage flavours, grilled traditional Boerewors (farmer’s sausage), served with tomato chutney and Fillet Meintjieskop (tender ostrich fillet infused with lychee sauce), following the recipe of the namesake dish served at the Restaurant Meintjieskop near the Union Building in Pretoria.

Some highlights served at dinner included a 1989 Pinot Noir Champagne by JC Le Roux (the Champagne name was still widely used in South Africa then!), showing ginger, nutty and toasted brioche notes, and harmonious balance, 2009 CWG Gary Jordan Chardonnay (judiciously oaked with an elegant poise, bright acidity, that can rival a fine Bourgogne), 2002 CWG Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz (such elegance, bright acidity and spicy character), 2001 Meerlust Rubicon (rich, mouthcoating ripe chewy tannins) and a 1995 Kanonkop Pinotage served from magnum (showing such balance and character that received the majority vote over Kanonkop’s 1993 Paul Sauer Bordeaux Blend!). The 1998 CWG Overgaauw Reserve was also well received in the fortified category!
With such gracefully matured wines as testimony to the ageing potential and quality of CWG wines, we could expect a very exciting line-up for the 2015 auction. The pre-auction tastings at Crown Wine Cellars should not be missed, and more importantly the CWG Auction on 3 October! Greg has been running the pre-auction tasting since 1997, evidence of how popular the auction has become amongst HK collectors and wine aficionados. Take a peek at the 2015 auction wines at: 

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