A final word from three legends stepping down as Members of the CWG
"It's time I was on my way
Thanks to you I'm much obliged
For such a pleasant stay."
Jacques Borman (Boschkloof) quotes Led Zeppelin in the 2021 Nedbank CWG Auction catalogue as he takes the final bow this year with Jeff Grier (Villiera) and Jeremy Walker (Grangehurst) as Members of the Cape Winemakers Guild.
These rockstars have been drumming it up for South African wines and collectively, with 76 years of experience, produced exceptional quality from Stellenbosch. As members of the Guild, they have demonstrated how a single region can champion diversity and create individual wine styles true to terroir and themselves as leading winemakers. Excelling in their craft, Jeremy has produced profound red blends, Jeff has allured both Cap Classique and Cabernet Franc lovers, and Jacques Borman has set the bar for elegant Syrah.
These musketeers believe it is now time to make way for a younger generation and hang up their proverbial hats as active members of the CWG. It is not with sadness that the Guild salutes them, but with great respect and admiration for what they have contributed over these years. So, as our cups (no, wine glasses) overflow, here is an epilogue, an Au Revoir, to three bright stars.
JEFF GRIER has been a member of the GWG for 35 years and being a prominent wine personality himself, he is grateful to have rubbed shoulders with some of the best winemakers in SA and the world.
"It includes people I look up to like Walter Finlayson, Neil Ellis, Jan Coetzee, Kevin Arnold, Beyers Truter, Gyles Webb and Etienne Le Riche. Then there are my contemporaries and now the next generation, with special emphasis on Andrea Mullineux, who has guided us, as our Chair, over one of the most difficult periods in the history of the Cape Wine Industry."
Reminiscing some of his favourite moments includes benchmark tastings as a collective, sharing knowledge.
"The most iconic is probably the Romanée-Conti tasting at Rust en Vrede. A close second was the Antinori tasting at Waterford, great 1st growth tastings and six decades of Domaine Huet."
The Auctions have been a vehicle to showcase the best of their efforts, and prices have been achieved to allow South African producers to recognize the value they offer.
"It's been special to witness the characters presenting their wines over the years, and I feel privileged to have enjoyed the camaraderie of this group. The days of going to Johannesburg for the Auction with David Molyneux Berry were exciting. The Auction at the Waterfront, where a fishing trawler's signal was mixed up with our Auctioneer's sale, was funny. The growth years of the Auction at Spier were testimony to the hard work put in by the various committees, who do a valuable job. Of course, none of this would be possible without the CWG office, managed by the amazingly efficient Kate and the always happy Martie, not to mention the business advice we get from Gary. As an aside, my father, Robin Grier, fulfilled this role many years ago."
Even under pandemic conditions, the show goes on, and this year the Auction continues online.
"The only regret is that those stepping down, like me, don't get the opportunity to look all their fellow members, staff and loyal customers in the eye, but we still get the opportunity to say goodbye and thank you for the good times, support and inspiration."
Jeff's final wine on Auction, a Cap Classique, has been a supernova in the making, the Villiera Shooting Star 2015.
"It was a great vintage, and I knew that I would be stepping down from the Guild in the early 2020s. I had to think about what I would want to create as an Auction wine for my swansong year. Passionate about bubbly, it was a no brainer that I had to put together one of the best bubblies I have made."
It is a mere coincidence that he is celebrating this time in the Guild with a magnum after the perfect maturation period, as South Africa also celebrates its 50th anniversary of Cap Classique.
"I look forward to it ending up in the homes of the most discerning Cap Classique lovers around the world."
JACQUES BORMAN steps down after serving as a member of the Guild for fifteen years.
"My dad wouldn't hear of me studying architecture in Cape Town, and with no other alternative offered at Stellenbosch University, I went on to study pomology."
Subsequently, somewhat of a maverick (which was due to hold him in good stead as a prolific winemaker) spending time with the Elsenburg crowd, balanced by serious surfing, naturally progressed with experimental winemaking in his final year.
"And that's what triggered it for me to study winemaking!"
From working at Simonsig to being instrumental in laying the cornerstones for La Motte and Rupert and Rothschild Wines, two decades passed before he was ready to pursue his own wine adventure in 2003.
"And now, after many fantastic years as a member of the CWG, it is time to step back for the younger generation to join."
Being a Syrah stalwart, the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti tasting presented by the proprietor Aubert de Villaine remains one of his fondest tastings and the Antinori tasting where they had the opportunity to sample blueprint Italian wines.
"And then, my biggest highlight, a tasting at Glenelly with Madame May de Lencquesaing. As the owner of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, a Grand Cru Classe in Pauillac, Bordeaux, to buy Glenelly estate in the age of 78 was remarkable. She shared: "As winemakers, remember that when you decide to bottle your wine, always be 100% sure it is of the best quality possible. Because once you've put your label on it, it will stick with you for the next 15 – 20 years as an ambassador of the winemaker you are."
He still asks himself the question: What is a quintessential CWG wine? Classic or modern? Elegant or ripe and showy?
"I believe each member of the Guild excels at their niche and stay true to that. Just look at the immense diversity and highest standard of this year's offering once again. The Epilogue Syrah 2019 will be my last wine on Auction, and I am super excited about it. The idea was to amplify the fruit and make it as natural as possible in the cellar. I tried to follow Madame's advice – to make a wine that I believe will galvanize my legacy, a wine that will age gracefully.
After 26 years, JEREMY WALKER is saying Au Revoir.
"What a pleasure and privilege it has been to be a member of the CWG since 1996, including trips to seven countries in Europe and Asia to promote the Auction wines (and South African wines in general). Contributing to the various charities and Protégé Programme as well as meeting so many new customers has been a wonderful experience."
Jeremy joined the Guild five years after he established Grangehurst Winery in 1992.
"It was a lot easier to be nominated and accepted as a Guild member in those days," a typically humble answer coming from this legend.
"The wines that I had on my first CWG Auction (CIWG at that stage) were the Grangehurst 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot and Grangehurst "Hidden Valley" 1995 Pinotage (the start of the Hidden Valley wine brand). The average prices (excl. VAT) for these two wines were R73 and R97 per 750ml bottle!"
During his time, Jeremy produced several different red wines for the Guild, from Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage to staunch Cape and Bordeaux Blends.
"I'm pleased to have had two wines selected for the 2021 Auction to end off on a similar basis to the way Grangehurst started in 1996; a 2018 Pinotage blended with Roobernet and a 2017 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot. I could have labelled the first wine as Pinotage (it comprises more than 85% Pinotage), but I want to emphasize the Roobernet component. These grape varietals are what I like to term "South African kids with French parents" – the French parents being Pinot Noir X Cinsaut and Cabernet Sauvignon X Alicante Bouschet with the cross-pollinations being performed in South Africa. Due to the significance of this wine being a blend of two South African grape varietals, I decided to name this wine "Heritage".
The final Grangehurst blend has previously been referred to as our Auction Reserve. However, I wanted to give this final wine a special name and when looking at the words "Auction Reserve" the name "Au Revoir" jumped out at me."
Conducted online like in 2020, deprived of the buzz and excitement of pre-Auction events, Jeremy is sad not to be able to say goodbye or Au Revoir in person.
"A big thank you to my CWG colleagues, the CWG staff, Nedbank and especially to our customers for all the support over the years. I hope you will continue to get much enjoyment from your Grangehurst CWG wines over the next 10 to 15 years. Finally, I wish the CWG and its members ongoing success – I'm sure that this organization will continue to go from strength to strength."