Wine sales buck recession at the 44th Nederburg Auction

With 6,700 litres of wine sold at the 44th Nederburg Auction, it was clearly evident that not even the welcome rain would keep bidders away. An all-time Auction high rand per bottle (750ml equivalent) of R590 was achieved, a 9% increase on last year’s R542, equating to overall sales of R5,264,300 with no unsold lots. This increase supports the fact that South African wine is being recognised as an investment asset class and proving its ability to compete with the best in world.

Bidders were treated to a fun-filled 2-day event at Nederburg in Paarl where food, wine and networking opportunities were aplenty. The Auction kicked-off on Friday afternoon with all producers showcasing their creations to a very enthusiastic crowd of buyers. This was followed by the Charity Auction and a gourmet dinner braai prepared by renowned chef Bertus Basson. Saturday’s proceedings commenced early with the Keynote Address by Michael Jordaan, Auction and another gourmet feast presented by Christophe Dehosse, Bertus Basson, Eric Bulpitt, Peter Tempelhoff and finishing off with a desert theatre by Alexander Avery. Mouth-watering canapés were created by the Zest duo, Nici and Jen.

Over the past 6 years the rand per bottle price at Auction has sky-rocketed by an astounding 424% on 2012 prices, which is a true reflection of the high calibre wines on Auction specifically selected by a highly acclaimed, yet critical, selection panel. Over the same period, red wine achieved a slightly higher increase at 436%. Dry White by contrast increased by 376% over the 6 years. This leap was achieved between 2012 and 2014 and has remained relatively static since then.

“The results we are seeing, particularly the quality of white wines, reflect a key shift in SA wine production where producers have brought more precision into their winemaking. This is also largely thanks to the sustained focus applied by our winemakers, which started with Sauvignon Blanc, and then moved to Chardonnay with barrel fermentation, and was followed by other white varieties” explained François Rautenbach of Singita.

According to Michael Fridjhon, it is important to illustrate that very old wines have amazing capacity to live and winemakers of the 60’s assembled wines with aesthetic integrity without technology, and it’s because all the pieces fitted together so well that those wines have aged as magnificently as they have. This is now being rediscovered by the new wave of young guns and rock stars who have gone and found old blocks of vines. They are trying to make wine in the most natural way possible and in many ways trying to rediscover the truth of old-style winemaking by selecting the fruit on its basic quality rather than because they think they can turn out something commercially.

The classic red wine producers certainly didn’t disappoint this year with the likes of Alto, Kanonkop, Zonnebloem, Le Riche, Nederburg and Groot Constantia all receiving high acclaim and well-deserved prices for their wines. This by no means undervalues the incredible achievements of our white wines from highly acclaimed producers like Hermanuspietersfontein, Ken Forrester, Neethlingshof, DeMorgenzon, Bloemendal and Spioenkop who all fly the flag high for South African white wines.

All 107 wines were knocked down by legendary auctioneer, David Elswood of Christies auction house in London. David, a champion at ensuring producers get ultimate value for their wines, kept the auction hall active and alive and ensured bidders were entertained to the very last lot. Before proceedings began David jokingly said that an auction is less like a football match and more like a tennis match where time is not an issue. This is where David showed his energy for the full five sets and managed to excitedly get through 90 lots an hour.

The thought-provoking and engaging Keynote Address was delivered by Michael Jordaan who spoke about the hard times, tradition and innovation around the business model of wine. He kept the audience entertained whilst driving home the importance of innovation without over-innovating.

The top buyers at the 2018 Auction were Pick ‘n Pay with 9% of total Auction sales, followed by Conservation Company Singita with 5.5%, the Tsogo Sun at 4.3% and 3.7% for Big Five Duty Free making a combined total of 22.5%. This shows that no buyers these days monopolise the market and ensures the buyer risk profile is more evenly spread between the larger retailers and private individuals who are increasingly seeing the advantages of investing in South African wine as an asset-class.

The highest priced item at the 2018 Nederburg Auction was a 1948 Monis Collectors Port being knocked down for R21,000 for 3 x 750ml bottles. In terms of varieties, the highest prices achieved per 750ml were:

Red – R5,000 per bottle of Chateau Libertas 1968

White – R833 per bottle of Hermanuspietersfontein Nr. 5 2012

MCC – R1,000 per bottle of Le Lude Vintage Brut Agrafe 2012

Port – R7,000 per bottle of Monis Collectors Port 1948

NLH – R1,500 per 375ml bottle Nederburg Edelkeur 1996

Even with the weak rand and current recession, South Africa managed to retain 76% of all wines on Auction with the balance going to international buyers.

A rare 40-year-old potstil from Van Ryn’s was sold for R40 000 at the charity auction.

A highlight of the 44th Nederburg Auction was the annual Charity Auction where all items were sold by a very enthusiastic Roland Peens who went the extra mile and got bidders digging deep into their pockets to support a worthy cause – the plight of children.

And without fail, the bidders duly obliged – raising more than R1,2million which was donated to the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The funds will be used to support the advancement of children’s programmes in the Cape Winelands and South Africa. The Charity Auction’s resounding success, also reflected on the generosity of the many donors, who over the years have provided items for these worthy causes.