As Winemag.co.za editor, I performed the role of master of ceremonies. Here is my opening address:
What is Appellation Grand Prestige? It’s a special designation for Franschhoek’s best wines – in an over-traded market, any way of differentiating yourself from the competition and motivating the consumer to buy must be a good thing.
AGP seeks to recognise not just quality but “regional typicity”, the focus on three varieties namely Chardonnay, Semillon and Cabernet Sauvignon, these being what have performed best historically.
AGP is premised on the notion that wines should taste of the place where the grapes grow. South Africa’s Wine of Origin scheme came about in the early 1970s and was based on the classification systems of Europe. While some of it is compromised (Tulbagh included under Coastal Region, for instance) there are parts of that are valuable such as Franschhoek as a self-contained district.
But punters aren’t going to care unless producers put in the effort to make them care – somebody recently commented that the AGP is derivative of Swartland Independent and I would say: Precisely. We need to invest meaning in the different appellations.
It’s important to be proactive. I used to joke that you went to Franschhoek for the restaurants and to Stellenbosch for the wine. And then Stellenbosch went and got a whole bunch of decent restaurants…
What AGP does is compel critics and punters to engage with the wines. There’s stuff that I’ve previously tended to overlook that really impresses me. In particular, I can’t praise the district’s Semillon highly enough.
AGP is also useful in that it makes Franschhoek distinct – for too long wineries from outside the ward have traded off its fahsionability. Chassagne-Montrachet isn’t Puligny-Montrachet and Simondium should realise it isn’t Franschhoek…
AGP is ultimately a celebration of terroir. It’s an important concept but to be honest, I’ve always found it quite difficult. Suppose a blind tasting of the world’s best Cabernets, who’s going to be able to tell Franschhoek from Stellenbosch from Bordeaux from Napa with absolute certainty?
For me, terroir definitely has a metaphysical component and what I think is great about today is that it celebrates not just wine but Franschhoek craftsmanship in general. The trophies that winemakers with AGP certified wines will shortly be receiving are from Franschhoek oak by local woodworker Stuart Douglas and then there are chef Chris Erasmus’s canapés…
The initiative was started by Haut Espoir’s Rob Armstrong, Stony Brook’s Craig McNaught and Môreson’s Clayton Reabow. All bar a few wineries have bought in – it’s inevitable that some will want to see proof of concept before committing but they will hopefully come around sooner rather than later (I’m talking about you, Boekenhoutskloof and Grand Provance).
Many thanks to Cork Supply SA, GV Tec and Anglo African Finace as sponsors – the reality is that initiatives like this don’t happen without some kind of corporate backing.
And now for the acknowledgement of the first wines to carry AGP certification. There were 55 wines submitted and judging was done by a panel of 14 Franschhoek winemakers and wine industry personalities. As Clayton Reabow put it, “we wanted to decide our own fate”.
Special mention must be made of the following examples of Chardonnay:
Dieue Donné 2013
Glenwood Grand Duc 2011
La Motte 2011
Môreson Mercator 2012
Môreson Dr Reason Why Unwooded 2013
And then of the following examples of Semillon:
La Chataigne 2012
Landau du Val 2013
My Wyn 2012
Rickety Bridge 2012
And of the following Cab:
There are ten wines to carry the AGP designation for the first time and these consist of four examples of Chardonnay, three Semillon, two Cabernet Sauvignon and one white blend.
Chamonix Chardonnay Reserve 2013 – Gottfried Mocke
Maison Chardonnay 2013 – Antwan Bondesio
Môreson Mercator Chardonnay 2013 – Clayton Reabow
Môreson Knoputibak Chardonnay-Semillon 2012 – Clayton Reabow
Rickety Bridge Chardonnay 2013 – Wynand Grobler
Rickety Bridge Paulina’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 – Wynand Grobler
Franschhoek Vineyards Semillon 2012 – Richard Duckitt
Franschhoek Vineyards Semillon 2013 – Richard Duckitt
Haut Espoir Semillon 2009 – Rob Armstrong
Stony Brook Ghost Gum Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Craig McNaught