Rare wines on the razz

SA’s finest impress at Nederburg, writes Louise Liebenberg

An elegant lunch traditionally follows the Nederburg auction of rare and fine wines in Paarl
An elegant lunch traditionally follows the Nederburg auction of rare and fine wines in Paarl
Image: Matt Stow

Welcome rain failed to put any kind of dampener on the 44th Nederburg Auction in Paarl last weekend, with total sales of R5,26m – and a new record average of R590 per 750ml bottle achieved.

As always it was an occasion of elegance and excellence: Not only were SA’s rarest and finest wines up for the tasting and buying, but first-class fare and exhilarating entertainment added yet more sparkle to the two-day event.

Nico Pitsiladi from Prestons makes his presence felt at the Nederburg auction of rare and iconic wine
Nico Pitsiladi from Prestons makes his presence felt at the Nederburg auction of rare and iconic wine
Image: Matt Stow

Auctioneer David Elswood, of Christies in London, knocked down 6,700 litres of wine, with Eastern Cape buyers like Howard Lipman and Nico Pitsiladi among those wielding their paddles with gusto. SPAR Eastern Cape, represented by Lipman, even managed to secure a place among the top 10 biggest buyers, spending more than R142,000 excluding VAT. The Eastern Cape’s second biggest buyer was fellow auction veteran Pitsiladi, who spent more than R94,000 for Prestons.

Other Eastern Cape buyers included Richard Moolman, of TOPS at SPAR Village Square in St Francis Bay, and Jeffreys Bay attorney and businessman Ernie Blignault.Pick n Pay was the top bidder in the oldest and biggest wine auction of the “new world”, accounting for about 9% of overall sales with a spend of R464,200.Elswood is renowned for his wit and before Saturday’s bidding jokingly reminded buyers an auction was less like a football match and more like a tennis match, where time was less of an issue. He then demonstrated his stamina for the full five sets by smashing through 90 lots an hour.

Over the past six years the rand per bottle average at auction has sky-rocketed by an astounding 424% on 2012 prices – an indication of the high calibre of wines on offer. The 107 wines from 64 producers were selected through blind tasting with the panel, led by wine masters Cathy van Zyl and Tim Atkin, tasting more than 400 wines in just two days.

Suzette Blignault from Jeffreys Bay catches up with Christelle Schalkwyk, left, and Bonny van der Merwe of Bayede! Wines
Suzette Blignault from Jeffreys Bay catches up with Christelle Schalkwyk, left, and Bonny van der Merwe of Bayede! Wines
Image: Louise Liebenberg

Producers showed off their very best wines during the pre-auction tasting last Friday, followed first by a charity auction at which R1,2m was raised for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, then by a gourmet braai prepared by renowned chef Bertus Basson.

Saturday’s proceedings included a keynote address by Michael Jordaan, former FNB head honcho turned winemaker, the main auction and then yet another gourmet feast. Eastern Cape buyers made the most of the two thrilling days of fabulous wine, food and hobnobbing. Pitsiladi said the auction was very professional and the tasting well organised – “the best I’ve seen”.His standout buys included eight cases of the 2012 Beau Constantia Lucca, a red blend, at R4800 a case. Beau Constantia was a first-time Nederburg auction participant. “The berries and structure were stunning.

I went back three times to re-taste and I knew I was going to buy it,” Pitsiladi said.Lipman said the auction started with a bang in terms of price: “I thought we were going to see nothing coming our way but then prices evened out.”The 2001 Kanonkop pinotage was among his top buys with SPAR Eastern Cape spending R36,000 on two cases of four magnums each.

Blignault, attending his 18th auction, said because the wines were of premium quality, private buyers like him and his wife, Suzette, were happy to pay up. He also said he preferred the 2018 format with bidding on the Saturday rather than spread over two days.He bought two cases each of the 2105 Bayede! 7 Icon Chardonnay and 2004 Nederburg Private Bin R121 Shiraz, and three cases of the 2012 Super Single Vineyards Pella Merlot.

Moolman, attending the auction with his wife, Joha, said he was very impressed prices had stayed stable despite the economic gloom. He also noted a phenomenon of more private collectors landing bids. Moolman bought eight cases of the 2012 Nederburg Private Bin Eminence – a vintage he described as exceptional. Auction manager Dalene Steyn confirmed private buyers were increasingly seeing the advantages of investing in rare SA wine as an asset class.In terms of varieties the highest prices achieved per 750ml were:

  • Red – R5,000 a bottle of Chateau Libertas 1968;
  • White – R833 a bottle of Hermanuspietersfontein Nr. 5 2012;
  • MCC – R1,000 a bottle of Le Lude Vintage Brut Agrafe 2012;
  • Port – R7,000 a bottle of Monis Collectors Port 1948; and
  • Noble Late Harvest – R1,500 a 375ml bottle Nederburg Edelkeur 1996.

The classic red wine producers did not disappoint with the likes of Alto, Kanonkop, Zonnebloem, Le Riche, Nederburg and Groot Constantia all achieving high prices.Acclaimed producers like Hermanuspietersfontein, Ken Forrester, Neethlingshof, DeMorgenzon, Bloemendal and Spioenkop flew the flag for SA white wines.

Even with the weak rand, SA managed to retain 76% of the wines on auction, with the rest going to buyers from the likes of Taiwan, Ghana, the Phillipines and Germany.

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