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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #184 (article first published : 2007-10-9; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

The thirty-third Nederburg wine auction, held recently at Paarl, has generated a good deal of comment. Sales of the 3,633 nine-litre cases of wine on offer totalled R5,13 million, an imposing figure but not so wonderful when compared with last year’s R6,96 million. And indeed the total realised was the lowest since !998.

However, one should see the figures in perspective. The wine industry has been going through difficult times, here and internationally, and trading conditions in South Africa are highly competitive (good news for the consumer but not for the producer).

This year the average price for a nine-litre (12-bottle) case was R1,411, which is 11 percent lower than last year. The amount of wine on the auction was, however, 17 percent less and there were 16 fewer participants. The quantity of wine and number of participants are determined by a strict selection process. This is, after all, an auction of “rare South African wines”.

An unknown factor was the timing of the auction, which was held for the first time in spring and not in autumn (March/April). A rival auction, that of the 36-member Cape Winemakers’ Guild, was held only a week later. And there must have been worries about the possibility of rain. As it happened, the weather was well-nigh perfect, and the activities outside the auction hall --- wine tastings, casual meals, fashion show, displays of paintings and jewellery --- were much to the taste of the guests, many of them young people.

Wine drinkers will not complain. At least two of the supermarkets which were among the big bidders have already advertised their auction wines at prices which are reasonable for products of this quality.

The top buyer was the restaurant group the Cape Town Fish Market, which bought 884 cases for R654,220, and other big buyers were the retail groups Pick ‘n Pay, Checkers, Makro and Ultra. The Sun International hotel group was also in the top ten buyers.

South Africans accounted for 76 percent of the sales. A firm called Vina Vita from Russia occupied fourth place, buying 238 cases. Other buyers came from Namibia, Sweden, Taiwan, Mauritius, Kenya, Brazil, Poland, Germany and Ethiopia. Obviously, the auction is an important showcase for South African wines.

The highest price paid was R20,000 for six bottles of Moni’s Collector’s Port Stamp Collection 1948, which was equal to R3,333 a bottle. Five cases of Edelkeur 1977, a famous dessert wine, fetched R5,000 for twelve half-bottles (375 ml), R400 a half-bottle.

The 1967 vintage of Chateau Libertas, one of the best known of all Cape wine labels, went for R666 a bottle. You can buy the current vintage at your bottle store for about R20, but if you are thinking of laying in a stock and hanging on for a profit it is as well to remember that the auction wines have been stored in optimum conditions.

The average price for red wine was R1,559 for a l2-bottle case. At the top was the R16,000 paid for six bottles of Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon, R2,666 a bottle.

The average price for dry white wine was R71 a bottle, with the top prices going to Cape Point Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (R300 a bottle), Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2003 (R266), Rudera Chenin Blanc 2003 (R183) and Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay 2004 (R175).

The auction, which was conducted by Stephan Welz, ended as usual with some extraordinary items sold for charities, the Hospice Palliative Care Association, Mothers2Mothers and the Organ Donor Foundation. The highest price paid was R80,000 for a 225-litre barrel of Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 donated by Nederburg’s cellarmaster, Razvan Macici. – Michael Green




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