New selection process for Cape Winemakers Guild auction wines

April 14, 2011
by Christian
in Opinion & Analysis
with 4 Comments

The Cape Winemakers Guild has announced that it has largely done away with peer review in determining which wines appear on its annual auction. Whereas previously a wine proposed for sale was subject to a blind tasting, Guild members voting to decide if it was up to standard, now all 43 members are entitled to have at least one wine on auction.

This decision must be welcomed as it is an acknowledgement that the process of peer review was narrowing the stylistic range of wines which were making it through to auction, and hence contrary to the what the Guild’s main aim must surely be, that is to lead the way in terms of what the top end of the South African industry wine is capable of.

The panel tasting has not been done away with entirely, wines destined for auction still undergoing some sort of review, this done to facilitate learning and the exchange of ideas. However, in the event that the wine of any particular member is deemed below par by his or her fellows, this is non-binding and that member can still decide to put his or her wine on sale. As such, membership of the Guild becomes the first and only hurdle to cross before a winemaker can take part in the auction.

The requirement that a winemaker must have a wine on auction once in three years in order to retain his or her membership is still in place remains in place, but whether or not this is quite the same spur to action as it used to be is a moot point. It’s difficult to foresee any Guild member sitting an auction out under the new dispensation.

The observation could be made that the Guild has abdicated its responsibility in terms of maintaining quality standards but the retort to this is surely that the Guild has opted to let the market decide who’s hot and who’s not, which will be nothing if not efficient.

The danger here however is that the auction is a key source of revenue for many of the members and they will consequently continue to make fairly safe wines, lest something too alternative alienates potential customers (the biggest buyer for past nine years is restaurateur Alan Pick, who owns Johannesburg’s steakhouse The Butcher Shop & Grill among others).

To this end, it is worth noting that members can in fact have a maximum of two wines on auction, the total number of lots fixed at 780, each member getting an equal share of those lots. A crafty Guild member could therefore potentially put forward both a big red to keep the high rollers that frequent the Butcher Shop & Grill happy as well as an esoteric white blend to titillate the wine geeks.

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4 Comments

  1. BobOApril 15, 2011 at 8:28 amReply

    Well, Colyn, I do surely hope that they’re all made from grapes from South Africa, but in the case they’re not, drink something from Robertson – it’s dry but you could drink it.

  2. colyn truterApril 14, 2011 at 8:51 pmReply

    Die broederbond van die wynindustrie!!! question: are CWG wines of origin or western cape allowed???

  3. ChristianApril 14, 2011 at 12:23 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi Chris, in theory it might be useful that an individual could be voted out of the Guild, just as he or she was voted in, but I can’t really see this happening…

  4. ChrisApril 14, 2011 at 10:14 amReply

    Hi Christian, 
    I think I share your general feeling that this is a good move (if I read correctly?). I think that the CWG is significant primarily to industry insiders and the more serious ‘winos’. Of course it is also an opportunity to make some nice margin due to it’s exclusivity of production. 
    I think that there could be an added dimension to this shift in thinking. With the membership awarded to the winemaker, irrespective of whether he moves cellars, the implication is that they are a so skilled at their task that they are integral to why the particular wines are so good. Fair enough.
    However, even though the members are entitled to have a wine in auction, I would suggest that all wines are still tasted blind by all members and scored accordingly. If the quality of a member’s wine goes south, (lets say for 3 years running) so to should their membership. I understand your point about the channeling of the style available due to the winemakers palates, but the CWG wines should be technically excellent and not simply good sellers. The fact that the membership is personal implies that the person can make very good wine wherever they go.
    That would make the CWG wines more marketable as they would always represent the guys who are at the top of the trade within a 5 year window (a blink of an eye in wine terms)
    A bit controversial, but just some food for thought… What do you think?

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