Cape Town - Isolation, sanctions and political turbulence – these summed up prevailing conditions in the country in 1982. The wine industry was dominated by large conglomerates, exports were limited and imports hard to find.

That was when eight talented Cape winemakers with a mutual desire to pool resources and craft great South African wines, met and formed the Cape Independent Winemakers’ Guild with Billy Hofmeyr of Welgemeend as chairman.

To fulfil their goal of changing the perception of the industry, they restricted membership to independent winemakers who made, bottled and marketed their own products. With Safmarine as their first sponsor, guild wines were sent to London, with eight taking gold at the 1990 International Wine and Spirit competition.

Since then, much wine has flowed under the metaphoric bridge. Innovative practices introduced by guild fundis include the use of small oak barrels, the establishment of our Cap Classique industry, and production of world-class ports, classic Bordeaux-style blends and the indigenous Cape blend.

Guild members planted vineyards in new, cool areas, now established prestigious wine regions, and championed environmentally friendly farming and sustainable production.

The guild is perhaps best known for its annual auctions, where members’ wines regularly attract high prices. The first took place in Joburg in 1985, and the event was managed by Walter Finlayson for six years.

Sociable traditions established then included golf rounds and winemakers’ dinners, both of which continue today.

From 1992 the auction moved to Cape Town, and four years later Nedbank became official guild and auction sponsor.

The new millennium coincided with the guild dropping the word “independent” from its name as prominent winemakers in larger organisations were invited to become members.

The 1990s were exciting years for all, as international buyers snapped up half the auction wines, although this no longer holds, thanks to the global recession.

What hasn’t changed is the wine itself – all auction wines are purpose-made and, as the auction grew in stature, showcases in the Cape and Gauteng enabled the public to pre-taste the items.

At the start of the new century the Guild Development Trust and Protégé Programme were established, supporting Boland school pupils with potential. Mentoring future winemakers became a reality in 2006, nurturing graduates in viticulture and oenology by installing them alongside top winemakers in members’ cellars.

Three decades on, the guild is ensuring that this birthday will be one to remember. Look out for a special commemorative cookbook in October, in addition to the regular events, starting with the 2012 Guild Auction Showcase on August 23 at the CTICC from 6pm. Tickets are R170. Book at www.webtickets.co. za.

Visitors may bid on rare signed bottles in the Silent Auction which helps fund the Development Trust.

The Trust will also benefit from the sale of special wines produced by the protégés, and members’ wines, auctioned at seven winemakers’ dinners, all on Wednesday, October 3. Restaurant venues are Cuvée at Simonsig, De Grendel, Jordan, Overture at Hidden Valley, Catharina’s at Steenberg, Terroir at Kleine Zalze and Tokara. They cost R630. Email [email protected] makersguild.com.

The 2012 CWG Auction takes place on Saturday, October 6, at Spier Conference Centre. To attend call 021 852 0408, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.capewinemakersguild.com.

Wildekrans voted the top estate

After seven years, the annual Novare SA Terroir Awards have soared in size and stature among the country’s contests.

This year saw Top 5 estate wines being chosen by the judging panel along with a top estate.

The top estate honour went to Wildekrans, which also scored with its chenin blanc 2010 as national winner and two more regional winners.

The others winners are Groot Constantia Chardonnay 2011, Kaapzicht Steytler Pentagon 2008, Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage 2008 and Neethlingshof Short Story Collection Maria.

The contest limits entries to wines from a single vineyard, estate or ward, and rewards the area that produces the most top performers. This is Stellenboschkloof, which includes multiple winners Neethlingshof and Jordan.

Quartet of reds for connoisseurs

Four prestigious reds from the exceptional 2009 vintage awaits CWG Showcase visitors.

The merlot-led blend DC Classic from Braam van Velden, of Overgaauw, is finished with 22 percent cabernet. Walker Bay is home to superb pinot noir and Peter Finlayson is a master with this finicky cultivar. His classy 2009 offers earthy, berry flavours complemented by careful oaking, and will continue to improve.

Careful vinification has produced Etienne le Riche’s classic cabernet sauvignon Auction Reserve, a wine for connoisseurs. Cabernet from the Helderberg has been blended with 25 percent merlot in the Waterford Estate Auction Reserve BB to produce a classic in modern style. - Weekend Argus