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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2003-02-3)

The annual Nederburg Auction, the biggest event on the South African wine calendar, will be held at Paarl on April 11 and 12, and this year a record number of 175 different wines from 96 cellars will be offered for sale.

This will be the 29th auction, and your faithful scribe has attended all but one. At the first auction in 1975 we oohed and aahed at the extravagance of those who paid average price of R19,12 for a 12-bottle case of wine. Last year the average price for a case was R1 153,93.

This year, 9,603 cases of wine will go under the hammer of Patrick Grubb, the British auctioneer and wine connoisseur who has conducted every auction from the beginning. The 175 wines consist of 116 reds, 40 whites, five sparkling and 14 sweet fortified wines.

Leading the red wines are 35 blends, followed by 29 cabernet sauvignon, 22 pinotage, 17 shiraz (sometimes called syrah), eight merlot, four pinot noir and one cabernet franc. The pinotages include old vintages of Lanzerac which traditionally open and close the auction. Last year the 1966 Lanzerac fetched the highest price for red wines, R2,000 a bottle.

The auction manager, Bennie Howard, says there has been a noticeable surge in the number of shiraz wines on the auction (entries are vetted for quality by a panel of experts). He adds that the auction remains a wonderful opportunity to present South Africa’s best rare and mature wines to the local and international markets.

This year’s 96 participants include 14 newcomers making their first appearance, among them Bergsig, Hazendal, Laibach, Koelenhof, Southern Right and Steenberg.

The Nederburg cellar itself features prominently, of course. Its 23 items include the first Nederburg Merlot, a 1998 vintage, and what is probably the world’s first blend of three Italian cultivars, Sangiovese, Barbera and Nebbiolo.

Other well-known labels which will be at the auction include De Wetshof, Delheim, Hartenberg, Uitkyk, Zonnebloem, Ken Forrester, Hamilton Russell and that distinguished veteran Chateau Libertas.

The white wines on auction include 14 chardonnay, eight chenin blanc, five sauvignon blanc, one semillon and 10 noble late harvest.

In the fortified wine category are ports and muscadel/jerepigo wines from such well-known producers as Boplaas, Die Krans, Landskroon, Monis, Rooiberg, Simonsvlei and Vergenoegd. Dessert wines from many of these cellars are available in the liquor shops (not the auction wines) and usually offer very good value. They are neglected by many wine drinkers. Try them some time. – Michael Green




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