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MICHAEL GREENíS WINE NOTES #120 (article first published : 2005-04-11)

The economic good times in South Africa were reflected in the bidding at the 31st annual Nederburg wine auction, held at Paarl on April 9, with prices for the wines averaging about double last yearís prices.

The auction raised a total of just on R7,5 million. This was the second highest figure since the first auction in 1975 and about R800,000 more than last year. The latter figure is, however, deceptive, because far fewer cases of wine were on offer this year, 3,493 twelve-bottle cases as opposed to 6,018 last year.

The average price for a case of twelve 750 ml. bottles (in practice the wines were sold in cases of varying sizes) was R2,145, or about R180 a bottle. Last year the average was R1,118 a case, or R94 a bottle.

All the auction buyers are licensed liquor dealers who will add VAT and profit margins to the wines before they are sold to the public in bottle stores or restaurants. Obviously these buyers are confident about the publicís ability and willingness to pay high prices for quality wines.

The 814 cases of dry white wine on the auction averaged R103 a bottle, as opposed to R55 last year. The 2,299 cases of red wine averaged R207 a bottle, compared with R100 last year.

The highest price paid was R26,000 for a case of six bottles of Nederburg Selected Cabernet Sauvignon, 1962 vintage. Some well-heeled collector was prepared to fork out R4,333 a bottle for this wine.

In the dry white division the highest price was fetched by a wine from the Warwick estate at Muldersvlei, near Stellenbosch. This was the Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc of 2004. Thirty six-bottle cases were placed on the auction with a reserve price of R300. One of those cases fetched R4,300.

Six bottles of Moniís 1948 port featuring a double postage stamp collection on the label went for R14,000, another collectorís item. Klein Constanta Vin de Constance, a modern reproduction of the sweet wines that made Constantia famous in Europe 150 years ago, retained its attraction for connoisseurs. A case of six 500-ml. bottles went for R11,200.

South Africa accounted for 94 percent of all the wines purchased. Buyers from Finland took 128 cases for R174,000, and somebody from Ghana bought two cases for R4,200.

The biggest single buyer was a firm with strong KwaZulu-Natal connections. Midmar is a name generally associated in KZN with water, but Midmar Liquors deals in stronger liquids. This is a company that had its origins in Durban but has expanded rapidly in the Western Cape over the past 15 years, selling to the public and to restaurants. George Naidoo of Midmar Liquors bought 1,438 cases of the Nederburg auction wine for a total of just on R2,5 million, one-third of the total sales.

Other big buyers included the Cape Town Fish Market Waterfront, Pickín Pay, Makro and Spar.

The charity auction which followed the main event raised R187,000 for the Hospice Association. Among the rare items donated for this auction were a bottle of 1840 Madeira wine which fetched R30,000; a 1947 Burgundy (R10,000); a set of Nederburg auction cabernet sauvignon wines spanning 12 vintages, 1970 to 1981 (R10,000); and a barrel of pinotage from the 2005 vintage, the wine to be bottled and labelled in due course. Paavo Korpokuusi from Finland paid R75,000 for the barrel, one way of keeping out the cold of a Finnish winter, or a Finnish summer. Ė Michael Green




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