“Cape Blend is an important home for Pinotage, particularly on the world market. It brings a component to a red blend that is without comparison.”
Click here for more quotesMike Ratcliffe MD Warwick

Clos Malverne Auret 2001 Limited Release was rated the top wine in "Grape" magazine, arguably South Africa's most exclusive and serious wine magazine.

In a recent tasting by the wine magazine "Grape", all the serious contenders for the "Cape blends" were tasted, with Clos Malverne's Auret 2001 Limited Release being rated the top wine.

As a major "Cape blend" producer since 1995 with our Auret, we have invested heavily in the "Cape blends" with a Limited Release Auret 2001. This wine is a Limited Release due to the quality in 2001 and we have small offerings (500 cases) as a special release. This wine contains components of the Grand Champion Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2001 Limited Release which won the coveted Genl. Smuts trophy. The Auret (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Pinotage and 15% Merlot) is what we believe a "Cape blend" should be and this wine has won immediate accolades from the media and trade since its release in March this year.

We are dedicated to producing the finest wines and totally committed to the "Cape blends."

Mike Ratcliffe has diligently been marketing the "Cape Blends" during the past few weeks.

The "Cape Blend" stand at the London Wine Trade Fair generated a lot of interest and the wines were extremely well received. Thanks to WOSA as they provided the stand free of charge.

A tasting of 13 "Cape Blends" was presented by Mike to the press in Johannesburg on Thursday the 29th of May. According to Mike the journalists enjoyed the tasting and were very interested in the category. They agreed that it was in the interest of South Africa that this category be developed as SA was urgently in need of some international differentiation ... and that "Cape Blends" have the potential in the future to be a flagship for South Africa. It was generally agreed that the debate about the inclusion of Pinotage had come to an end and all agreed that this was the direction in which to develop. It was felt that too much legislation was disruptive, but that a minimum and maximum amount of Pinotage is necessary to differentiate the wines from other 'red blends' and 'Pinotage' wines. Most agreed that 25-33% was a logical limit, but would be defined by winemakers in the future as they strived to produce the best wines. The wines that fared the best contained 30% plus Pinotage and this was considered an interesting point. Wines containing percentage of Cabernet Franc also showed very well, but some of the tasters felt that it highlighted the Bordeaux characteristics rather than the 'Capeness' of the wines.

A "Cape Blend" press tasting is also in the pipeline and 13 "Cape Blends" have been shipped to London for a feature being planned in UK WINE magazine on "Cape Blends."

A tasting will also be presented in September for inclusion in the HARPERS South African supplement to be published in October at the time of the WOSA SA Generic Tasting in London. Hopefully "Cape Blends" will also be presented to the UK press in conjunction with WOSA in October at the SA Generic Tasting.

All the above tastings and exposure are wonderful opportunities, national and international for the "Cape Blends." Thanks to Mike for his enthusiasm and support in this regard.

Uiterwyk’s De Waal brothers, who pioneered South Africa’s first commercial Cape Blend in 1993, have decided to put their name to the wine.

In future, Uiterwyk Estate's Cape Blend will be included in the reserve DeWaal range, together with the multi-award-winning DeWaal Top-of-the-Hill Pinotage, Shiraz and Viognier. In the late eighties, the De Waals conceived of creating a ‘Super Cape Blend’ that would be unique to South Africa.

Following a harvest with Super Tuscan pioneer, Antinori, winemaker Daniël de Waal was convinced that Pinotage had to be an integral part of the blend. On his return from Italy, he went ahead and made the first commercial Cape Blend of South Africa, the 1993 Uiterwyk Estate Wine, consisting of Pinotage, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Shiraz was introduced to the blend with the tenth vintage in 2002. The De Waals are convinced that Shiraz will play an important role in the blend in future.

Following the success of this pioneering wine, Cape Blends containing Pinotage are now winning hearts and trophies around the globe.

Large billboards proclaiming ‘Welcome to the home of the Cape Blend’ will welcome visitors to the London International Wine & Spirits Trade Fair 2003. The prominent ad-campaign spearheads the UK launch of Synergy, a flagship Cape Blend created by Pinotage proponent Beyers Truter of Beyerskloof. Distributed by Raison Social in the UK, Synergy has already won listings as a Cape Blend with Tesco in a marketing move that will undoubtedly raise the profile of Pinotage-based blends on the export shelf.

After years of intense debate among Cape winemakers, the term Cape Blend is winning recognition on wine labels, on a new website at www.capeblend.co.za and in talks on the formation of a Cape Blend Producers' Association. The website is the initiative of Seymour Pritchard, owner of Clos Malverne, one of the first Cape estates to use Pinotage as a component in its flagship Auret blend. A focused discussion forum on news, trends and new releases from different producers, the website hopes to achieve technical clarity on exactly what constitutes a Cape blend while marketing it as a unique SA wine brand.

The website aims to include profiles of all producers of Cape Blends using Pinotage. Looking around at the Cape blends on the market it is apparent that there is no agreement on the ideal assemblage - winemakers are opting for Pinotage as the common denominator, often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, also Merlot and even Grenache. Leading producers already featured at www.capeblend.co.za are Ashanti (Chiwara), Beyerskloof, Clos Malverne, Darling Cellars (Kroon), Dellrust (Three Vines), Grangehurst (Nikela), Kaapzicht (Vision), Kanonkop (Kadette), Simonsig (Frans Malan Reserve), Woolworths (The Cape Blend) and Welgemeend (Amade). More of the fifty or so SA producers of Pinotage blends are expected to join the website in the near future.

Veritas has even introduced a Cape Blend category in the SA national wine show this year - an initiative already shrouded in controversy. SA wine industry regulations allow the wording ‘Cape Blend’ on a label where the wine contains at least 20% Pinotage - and EU regulations permit a grape variety to be shown on a wine label with the same 20% proviso. Veritas, however, stipulates a 30-70% min/max Pinotage component in the Cape Blend, a requirement that disqualifies some of the top producers in the new category. Clos Malverne believes that 25% Pinotage is ‘the perfect proportion’ - their Auret blend currently features 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Pinotage and 15% Merlot.

Clarity on the definition of a Cape Blend is needed urgently according to Seymour Pritchard, producer of the Auret 1998 rated 5-stars in Platter's SA Wines 2002, the highest rating ever won by a Cape Blend featuring Pinotage. He complains that the new Veritas category was introduced without consulting Clos Malverne on their views. After experimenting with the formula since 1992 - Clos Malverne decreased the original 40% Pinotage to 20%-25%. Playing around with the precise percentage of Pinotage in the mix, they found that the Cape's unique grape becomes more dominant as the wine ages.

The website also features Warwick's Three Cape Ladies, a Cape Blend which was rated 91,5 out of 100 by US wine critic Stephen Tanzer. Warwick's Mike Ratcliffe concludes, ‘to move into global markets requires strong and ideally unique brand positioning. The Cape Blend will do a remarkable job of building ‘Brand South Africa’. We must begin making Cape Blends and talking Cape Blends, so that we can move into these global markets in collaboration. This may mean unique labeling to make this wine stand out on crowded shelves. One thing is clear - even more than single variety wine; this is Pinotage's natural place to make serious inroads on local and global markets.’ Quo vadis Veritas?

South Africa needs a comprehensive, unified and collaborative approach to the marketing of ‘Cape Blends’ in all levels of the market. 'A rising tide raises all ships.'

South Africa is currently riding the wave of an export-led boom. An integrated industry approach to ‘Cape Blends’ could fuel this boom, perpetuate the momentum and contribute towards the cohesive growth of our unique brand.

Wines of South Africa (WOSA) does not have the mandate to become involved in the debate as to the definition of a Cape Blend. They do however have the capacity, the functionality and the expertise to create considerable brand recognition around this topic. The regular ‘themed’ tastings held in the prime wine markets have been incredibly successful in raising the image of South African wines. This could be seen as an extension of this project.

The recent initiatives taken by WOSA to promte this category have shown and incredible amount of interest and support for this new and exciting category. It is understood that advanced planning is underway for WOSA to present a ‘Cape Blends’ table at ProWein in Dusseldorf and at the London Wine Trade Fair. This support for the industry from the industry export body is encouraging and a positive sign for the future.

WOSA has been incredibly successful in staging the ‘Cape Wine’ event. Cape Wine 2004 is already at an advanced stage of planning. The Cape Blend could be seen as a centre-piece of this event. A symbol of the unique and distinctive nature of our industry. A sign that we are prepared to forge our own direction and future rather than copying the successes of our competitors.

The Winemakers Federation of Australia, in the update to their well-known Strategy 2025 defined the first ten years of this century as “The Marketing Decade.” Marketing was identified as the single most important factor that would perpetuate the good fortunes of the Australian wine industry. South Africa must take a pro-active stance and make an effort to increase our branding efficiency in the global markets.

The ‘Cape Blend’ can become the unique selling proposition (USP) of the South African wine industry. It could be seen as the first departure from our global game of catch-up, to the start of a fresh impetus, a new dynamism and enhanced belief in the uniqueness and intrinsic quality inherent in our industry.

The name ‘Cape Blend’ has been hotly debated and has lead to suggestions that a generic ‘Meritage’ style name is found to describe it. It is the feeling of this writer that the world wine market has never been more cluttered and names should, as far as possible, rely on their descriptive image-conjuring properties rather than on attempts to create a new category. Maybe ‘South African Blend’ would be more descriptive as ‘Cape’ is not definitive of South Africa. In North America ‘Cape’ would be associated with any number of domestic promontories. Another suggestion would be ‘African Blend’, although I would imagine that it would be very difficult to convince the industry that this is feasible. The term ‘Africa’ and the imagery that it conjures, however, is a powerful marketing tool in the US market. This term should not be discounted entirely based on localized South African perceptions, but after discussion with Americans sufficiently versed in the particular ‘peculiarities’ of American vinous perception. Whatever the outcome of the debate, the wine industry should be sure to protect the name ‘Cape Blend’ by registering the trademark in all major markets. Government support in this regard could be sought. This point should be seen as critical.

Times are tough in the global wine market with opposing forces of retail consolidation and fragmentation of production squeezing margins at every stage. The argument that a ‘Cape Blend’ should be the ‘best blend that we can produce in the Cape’, irrespective of whether it contains Pinotage or not shows a lack of respect for the global markets and a lack of understanding of the need for differentiation and diversification to create a real and tangible USP.

South Africa has a real opportunity to create some excitement with the ‘Cape Blend.’ The market is ready for this product, especially as it has South African origin. South Africa needs to make a unique product that separates and differentiates the country from our competitors. Cabernet/Shiraz has evolved in Australia because the Australians were making these two varieties really well and gained a reputation for their efforts. The Bordeaux Blend took thousands of years to develop, but is now firmly entrenched. So why rush it? Times have changed; marketing is opening up new markets and supplanting traditional ways. What used to take thousands of years to become entrenched is now determined by the sweep of the marketing and PR department budget. The ‘Cape Blend’ is not a distant pipe dream; it is a reality that could be achieved by a unified industry within years.

Pinotage, apart from a handful of exceptions , is uniquely South African. With the momentum created by the Pinotage Producers Association (PPA), producers are making real strides to improve the character and image of Pinotage. South Africa is continually moving closer to producing consistent world quality product from this grape, we should be striving to produce other products that add value to Pinotage. A ‘Cape Blend’ is a logical product extension. Added value and quality should be seen as core functions of the 'Cape Blend.’

Perpetuating this logical extension, the Pinotage Producers Association has been involved in defining the proportional constraints of this variety in the Blend. A working group has been established to draw up a set of guidelines for the production of this Blend. Recommendations to be correlated by such a group included grower guidelines, producer workshops, maturation suggestions, flavour profiles and the use of marketing synergies to provide focus to the industry.

A Cape Blend should in no way be seen to be competing with Pinotage. Added value should be seen to benefit all parties . The global marketplace is sufficiently voluminous and South African market-share thereof showing sufficient robust growth to accommodate Pinotage and ‘Cape Blends’. Single varietal Cabernet Sauvignons do not compete with Bordeaux Blends, but form part of a logical quality-based brand extension.

The ‘Cape Blend’ should be entirely quality-driven and must be based on a solid background of technical excellence and experience, harnessed to meeting the needs of the wine consumer.

As Pinotage is the only variety that is truly South African, it should also be clear now that in order for a Cape Blend to have intrinsic value as a uniquely South Africa product, it must be a Pinotage-based blend.

Pinotage can be blended. This truth needs to be communicated to the industry. There are many successful ‘Cape Blends’ containing Pinotage which receive regular accolades and praise. The number of Pinotage-based ‘Cape Blends has been increasing exponentially since the inaugural Diners Club ‘Winemaker of the year’ competition in 1999. This controversial domestic competition sparked controversy and outrage in the industry by awarding the trophy to a Cabernet-Shiraz blend with no readily identifiable ‘Cape’ characteristics.

The only component that should be mandatory and should therefore be specified in guidelines on ‘Cape Blends’ is the proportion of Pinotage in the final Blend. Pinotage should be given a maximum and minimum allowable proportion to firstly identify it as a Cape Blend (i.e. a minimum of 30%) and secondly to distinguish it from a straight Pinotage. (i.e. a maximum of 70%)

An alternative and less prescriptive solution would be to simply stipulate that a ‘Cape Blend’ should contain Pinotage. This broad-based approach, although simple, may not have enough of a focused effect on the industry and could lead to broad dilution of the term ‘Cape Blend.’ A compromise may have to be reached as resistance could be anticipated to any kind of prescriptive practices within the industry.

The 2002 Veritas (South Africa’s biggest wine competition) committee (SANW - South African National Wine Show) established the first ‘industry’ definition of a Cape Blend and was implemented as a ‘stand-alone’ category at the judging in 2002 for the first time. The Veritas Committee defined ‘Cape Blends’ as Pinotage-based blends containing a minimum of 30% and a maximum of 70 % Pinotage. Although not widely publicized, the category was introduced, implemented and did not attract widespread criticism or discussion as might have been anticipated.

Cape Blends have been the subject of much discussion and debate during the past few years. This debate has been constructive and has crystallized producer and industry perceptions to the point that positive strategies surrounding this matter can now be taken. Providing clarity on the subject to an industry in need of answers should be seen as an immediate priority.

It should now be clear that Cape Blends are both a marketing creation and a product of excellence in winemaking. Marketing, along with Viticulture & Oenology are the three legs that support the wine industry. South Africans have proven over the years that top wines can compete with the best that the world has to offer and it should now be left to the marketers to communicate this message to the world.

One of the issues being addressed here is whether giving guidelines or prescribing a recipe for a ‘Cape Blend’ to an entire industry is wise, or indeed necessary. It is abundantly clear that this is a political minefield and should be treated delicately and with an understanding of the needs of the respective role-players.

A region-specific Blend, by definition, should be unique and distinctive.

Any process to provide clarity on this subject should commence with the identification of all role-players, interest groups and power blocks and an attempt to get them involved, and should then be conducted in as transparent a manner as possible.

From the outset, it is important to realize that it would be foolhardy to attempt to precisely define the components of a ‘Cape Blend’. This removes the natural Blending talent of the winemaker and the vagaries of climate from the equation and can diminish the effects of individual terroir. ‘Cape Blends’ should reflect the region from which they are produced, they should reflect the winemakers’ skill and technique and should be identifiable by their unique composition.

Clos Malverne has created a website to further the interests of the Cape Blend at www.capeblend.co.za Seymour Pritchard, owner of Clos Malverne, made the announcement on the same day of the launch of the Devon Valley farm's first limited release wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2001 and the Auret 2001 (a Cape Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Merlot).

The idea behind the website is to further the interests of the Cape Blend. All the main producers of the Cape Blend will be listed on the site, in the hope that in time a technical and general discussion forum will lead to the establishment of a Cape Blend association, which could take over the running of the site.

The Auret 2001 brings to four the number of Cape Blends produced by Clos Malverne. The other three are the Auret 2000, for which its 1998 vintage was awarded 5 stars by John Platter 2002; the Cabernet Sauvignon Pinotage 2001 (with "Cape Blend" on the label), which won a Michelangelo Gold for its 1999 vintage; and a Cabernet Sauvignon Pinotage 2000.

Clos Malverne was one of the first wineries to introduce Pinotage, as a junior partner, into a blend of other noble varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Auret has since 1995 become the farm's flagship wine, and the blend remains unchanged.