Cape Point Vineyards   
One of South Africa's rising stars

Duncan Savage (above) is the dude in charge of Cape Point, one of South Africa’s most exciting wineries. He’s been in the hot seat for seven vintages now, even though this still seems like quite a new project. The first vines were actually planted in 1996, then some more was added in 2000, and a further recent planting means that there are now 10 ha of young vines.

Duncan encapsulates all that is good about the new face of the South African wine industry. He’s willing to experiment; he has an open mind; he has a vision for where he would like to go; and where he wants to go is a good destination—that is, he has a really good handle on the difference between ordinary wine and truly interesting wine.

Cape Point has two properties, with 33 hectares in all. The focus is strongly in favour of white wines (24 hectares of white varieties as opposed to 9 hectares of red). The main vineyard is overlooking the sea at Cape Point, but frustratingly it was raining hard when we visited, so we didn’t get the spectacular view down to the sea that is normally gained from a hike up to the top of the property.

Duncan cites Rosa Kruger, viticulturalist at Antonij Rupert, as a big influence: he spent a year working with her, and she’s helped him out with his work at Cape Point.

Sauvignon Blanc is the main emphasis at Cape Point, and I asked Duncan about whether there’s a shift in style away from those Sauvignons that had the strong green pepper/herbal character that comes from a group of compounds called methoxypyrazines. ‘The South African market has favoured the pyrazine character,’ agrees Dunacn. ‘Over the last couple of years there has been a trend to less one-dimensional wines. In the past they were showing too much methoxypyrazine.’

‘When we started out our wines were unique,’ says Duncan. ‘We were the only farm in the area and our wines were different. Now we see a lot of maritime Sauvignons.’ It’s perhaps for this reason that Duncan has decided to begin playing with the Cape Point house style a bit. ‘We have built our brand as a style that is herbaceous in youth, but which develops,’ he says. ‘Now we are on a different track: we want to make Sauvignon that is different. There’s a lot of reductively made Sauvignon around. I want to do something different.’ This could be bad news for the competition. Cape Point’s Sauvignons are already very highly regarded. If they get better, then others will find it hard to keep up.

‘Now we want to look for riper, more voluptuous flavours: citrus and grapefruit characters, and stone fruits,’ explains Dunacan. ‘We’re looking for more textured wines; something with more citrus character and something that will develop in bottle.’ As part of this quest for style evolution, from 2010 the basic Sauvignon Blanc will be 80% barrel fermented in 600 litre barrels.

Duncan adds that, ‘Methoxypyrazine flavours are like concrete in a wine: if you oxidise your thiols, this leaves them exposed. Malolactic fermentation can do this. I don’t do malolactic with any Sauvignon: I did an experiment and it went down the drain.’

For a few years now Cape Point have made an really nice varietal Semillon, but 2008 will be the last vintage of this wine. ‘I think Semillon is great, but more from a blending point of view,’ Duncan explains. But Semillon remains an important variety for Cape point, because it is used in blending Eilidh (the top Sauvignon), and a new vineyard of Semillon will be planted with the vines trained on single stakes at a density of 8500 vines/hectare. The advantage of staked vines is that you take out the row effect, and the sun can reach the grapes from any angle, without leaves shading fruit.

Duncan is very interested in experimenting with his cellar work. ‘Surely there is more to winemaking than stainless steel and oak.’ Duncan has been interested in using amphorae, but didn’t want to import them. He contacted a local potter, Yogi de Beer, who is throwing 600 litre pots for Duncan. He describes this experimentation as a ‘cool journey’. The first pots he tried were 120 litres (the potter he used only had a small kiln). When Duncan poured wine in they leaked like sieves (they were earthenware and had only been fired at low temperatures).

The ones he’s using now are stoneware clay made with high firing temperatures. They aren’t lined. Duncan currently has capacity for 3000 litres. He’s trying reds, and has done a long maceration of Grenache that has been allowed three months on skins.

He’s really enthusiastic about the future for South African wine. ‘For me, South Africa is “watch this space”. The potential is huge.’


Cape Point Sauvignon Blanc 2008 WO Cape Point
From sandstone-derived soils with a bit of decomposed granite, as well as clay and quartz. 7% Semillon in the blend, with a bit in oak. Crisp and focused with lovely herb and pepper notes, and nice texture. Grassy and intense, this shows minerality and focus with some rounded texture and great balance. 91/100

Cape Point Isliedh 2008
22% Semillon, from a special high-up part of the vineyard, aged in 600 litre barrels, one-third new; the balance is Sauvignon Blanc. Taut mineral and grapefruit nose with lovely precision and a floral hint. The palate is concentrated and pure with lovely precision and nice minerality. Rounded stone fruits and good texture. Thrilling. 93/100

Cape Point 2008 Chardonnay
Barrel fermented in 600 litre barrels, 40% new. Bright, fruity, pure and focused with bright lemon and citrus fruit. Nice precision and some nutty hints. Hardly any oak influence, other than adding texture. Complex, pure and nutty with lovely complexity and purity. Very serious. 93/100

Cape Point 2005 Semillon
Barrel fermented in old oak. Very distinctive melange of chalky, herby methoxypyrazine characters with intense lemony fruit. Very pure: crystalline and minerally with some grapefruit notes. Precise with lovely freshness. Thought provoking. 91/100

Scarborough Red 2007
A relatively inexpensive (45 Rand) Cabernet/Shiraz blend. Fresh cherry/berry fruit nose with a chalky edge. Lovely bright cherry fruit on the palate with nice purity and focus. Enjoyable and fruity – Duncan says that he is not trying to force young vines into something that they are not. 87/100

Part 1, Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards
Part 2, Cape Point Vineyards
Part 3, AA Badenhorst Family Wines
Part 4, Eben Sadie: Sadie Family Wines and Sequillo Cellars
Part 5, Paul Kretzel of Lammershoek
Part 6, Mullineux Family Wines
Part 7, Vondeling
Part 8, Scali
Part 9, Sterhuis

See also:
Visiting South Africa's wine lands (a series based on a trip in December 2005)

Wines tasted 11/09  
Find these wines with

Back to top