This is my third 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, with six different bands (first, second, third, fourth and fifth growths and a group of crus bourgeois), although quality rather than price is the only criterion I use. This year, I have increased the number of classified growths to 75 to reflect the dynamism and excitement of the Cape wine scene, and boosted the crus bourgeois to 75, too.
My 2015 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 one or two vintages – Beeslaar, Thorne & Daughters, Smiley, Patatsfontein, The Blacksmith, Storm and Fram, for example – but I think that’s irrelevant. Time may prove me wrong, but I think that these wineries will help to define the Cape wine industry over the next quarter of a century.
There are several significant changes from last year. Within the five bands of classed growths, only 30 of the top 75 producers have the same status as last year, so there has been a considerable degree of movement. Seventeen of my classed growths wines are new to the classification (although some are returning to it in 2015) – Beeslaar, BLANKbottle, Boschkloof, De Trafford, Diemersdal, Fram, Gabriëlskloof, Iona, Kershaw, Leeuwenkuil. Lismore, Longridge, Mount Abora, Silverthorn, Sterhuis, Thorne & Daughters and Waterkloof – and five have been promoted to first growths (AA Badenhorst, Delaire Graff, Keermont, Porseleinberg and Rall). It’s all change among the 75 crus bourgeois, too, where there are 33 new names, several of which will surely be promoted next year.