This is my fourth attempt to classify the Cape’s best producers, an annual exercise that has stimulated considerable debate in South Africa. This is very loosely based on the 1855 Bordeaux Classification, although quality rather than price is my only criterion. There are six different bands: first, second, third, fourth and fifth growths, consisting of 15 wines each, and a larger group of 75 crus bourgeois.
My 2016 classification is a snapshot of the Cape wine industry. Mindful that a critic should attempt to reward talent, irrespective of a long track record in some cases, I have chosen my favourite producers, rather than parroted the opinions of others. Track records can be overrated in my view. Some of my classified producers have only made a few vintages – Beeslaar, Blackwater, David & Nadia, Fram, Lismore, Patatsfontein, Storm andThorne & Daughters, for example – but I think that’s irrelevant. I believe these wineries will help to define the Cape wine industry over the next quarter of a century.
There are several significant changes to my Cape Classification from last year. Within the five bands of classed growths, only 32 of the top 75 producers have the same status, so there has been a considerable degree of movement. Twelve of my classed growths are new to the classification (although some are returning to it) – Anthonij Rupert, Bellingham, Blackwater, Bloemendal, Bon Courage, Eikendal, Hogan, Olifantbserg, Patatsfontein, Restless River, Storm Wines and Uva Mira – and three have been promoted to first growths (Boekenhoutskloof, David & Nadia and Newton Johnson). It’s all change among the 75 crus bourgeois, too, where there are 24 new names, several of which will surely be ranked more highly next year. The dynamism of the Cape wine industry is reflected in the fact that my classification gets harder with every vintage.