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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2001-10-10)

Fifty expert tasters recently participated in a blind tasting of more than 250 wines, the purpose being to select those that will be placed on the 2002 Nederburg Auction to be held at Paarl on April 12 and 13 next year. Only South African wines of the highest quality are chosen for the auction, and the tasters included winemakers, Cape Wine Masters, and wine judges and consultants. Bennie Howard, the auction manager, says: “Our commitment to quality has really paid off. Once participants’ wines have passed the selection panel and have been sold at good prices on the auction, these wines are made”.

Next year’s event will be the 28th annual auction. Ever on the look-out for something new, the organisers have come up this time with a category of pre-release wines, new wines of outstanding quality which have already been tasted by the experts and found acceptable.

This year’s auction realised total sales of nearly R6,5 million. Every year the proceedings end with a charity auction of a few particularly rare items; this year, for example, R200 000 was paid for a 300-litre barrel of Nederburg Pinotage from the 2001 vintage. The principal beneficiary has been the Hospice Association of South Africa, which has received almost R1.2 million from the auction over the past 11 years.

Only licensed liquor dealers may bid at the auction. There are a large number of invited guests and the second day includes a fashion parade and gourmet lunch.

If you are not lucky enough to be invited there are plenty of opportunities to visit the beautiful Nederburg farm on the outskirts of Paarl. It is open to the public, and picnic lunches are served under shady trees from 1200 to 1400 Tuesdays to Sundays from November to March. These should be pre-booked by phoning (021) 862-3104 or toll-free 0800 200 867. The Nederburg visitors’ centre is open for wine sales daily from 08h30 to 17h00 and Saturdays from 09h00 to 13h00, with longer hours from November to March.

The annual auction has from its inception been conducted by English wine personality Patrick Grubb, and a Patrick Grubb Bursary has been established by Mr Grubb and the auction organisers. The winner this year is Lionel Leibrandt, assistant winemaker at the Boschendal estate at Franschhoek. His prize is seven weeks of study in Bordeaux. Lionel, aged 46, was born on the Boschendal farm where both his parents worked. He started life as a fruit packer, took some wine courses, and moved on rapidly from there. – Michael Green




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