Talking fine wines and art with a trio of masters

We caught up with three of SA’s leading winemakers to chat about wine & art ahead of the Strauss & Co virtual live auction happening next week from 26 to 28 July. With some rare and sought-after lots on the bill, this auction is one to bookmark for anyone who is a fan of our finest local wine producers: Kanonkop, Klein Constantia and Boekenhoutskloof.

A trio of winemaking masters

We interviewed these three winemakers – each with an affinity for art – about their wines and their personal art highlights in the catalogue. We also caught up with Bina Genovese, Joint Managing Director of Strauss & Co and fine wine auction partner Roland Peens, Director of Wine Cellar fine wine merchants, about the upcoming virtual live auction.

“The July auction follows our most successful online auction yet during lockdown in June, which showed enthusiastic participation from local and international collectors, demonstrating the resilience of the fine art and decorative arts market, and the adaptability of buyers in moving over to digital processes,” says Bina.

Roland Peens adds: “We’re thrilled to offer incredible mature and young vintages from three of South Africa’s greatest producers. There are eighteen vintages of Vin de Constance, one of the world’s greatest wines, including the legendary 1987 which was their first commercial release. The Boekenhoutskloof selection includes the 1997 Syrah, a modern day legend, as well as five vintages of the extremely rare, The Journeyman. Kanonkop is represented by fine, mature vintages of all their flagship wines including 20 vintages of Paul Sauer. Lot 54 offers 3 decades of Paul Sauer Jeroboams which is not only truly unique, but also the highest value lot we have ever auctioned. All wines purchased on auction will be delivered post Lockdown restrictions.”

Abrie Beeslaar of Kanonkop

Q: Is there a specific piece of art going on auction on 27/28 July that speaks to you? What is it about this artwork that has personal meaning to you? 

A: Lot 407, ‘Landscape with Purple Mountains’ by Pierneef evokes memories – the wind you see in the cloud reminds me of Worcester, where I grew up. The wind always had a very relaxing effect on me.

Q: Please tell us about your most impressive wine lot on auction on the 26th and the significance of this lot? 

A: Lot 14. This was the first vintage of Black label, and the first new line Kanonkop we created in 20 years. We only produced 1,000 bottles, and the wine sold out within hours.

Q:  Please let us know your thoughts on the addition of fine wine and what it means for the development of the secondary wine market in South Africa? 

A: Quality SA wine has never had a platform where you could sell older vintages, and that kept the prices relatively low. With Strauss & Co offering wine on these auctions, the true value of older vintages is unlocked, and this will help the perception of SA wine internationally. Hopefully this will also bring the focus back to ageability instead of just accessibility. 

Matthew Day of Klein Constantia

Q: Please tell us about your art selection on auction 26-28 July?

A: The piece that speaks to me is Lot 163, Ruan Hoffmann’s ‘Fruit’, ceramic earthenware with porcelain slip, underglaze copper oxide and on-glaze details – it reminds me of the first bush vines of Muscat de Frontignan we planted on the estate, used to make Vin de Constance.

Q: And your most impressive wine lot on auction on the 26th?

A: All of the lots are impressive, however one that stands out would be the 2008 vintage. In October 2015, the Queen of England hosted the Chinese president Xi Jinping and his wife at a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, and on the menu was the 2008 Vin de Constance – the iconic wine that is still served to royalty today.

Q: How do you believe Strauss & Co auctions are building the secondary wine market in SA?

A: The concept is amazing and we are so happy that Strauss & Co as well as Wine Cellar fine wine merchants are driving the secondary wine market in South Africa. It’s the most important aspect when it comes to improving the perception of South African wines, moving the industry into a league that can compete with all the other great wine growing regions and countries around the world. When well-aged wine can be sold on these auctions, it shows that they are not only for our immediate enjoyment but can also be a fruitful investment. 

Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof

Q: Please highlight your art selection going on auction 26-28 July?

A: The work “Five Figures”, Lot 178, by Colbert Mashile holds special significance for me. I recently celebrated 25 years at Boekenhoutskloof, and my partners here gifted me a spectacular Colbert Mashile work. After 25 years my partners remain the generous-spirited, wonderful bunch that employed me 25 years ago, never once asking for anything other than just “doing our best” in the winery.

Q: We’re excited to hear about the wine lot you’d like to highlight ahead of the auction…

A: Without doubt, the single bottle of 1997 Syrah – we have less than twenty bottles at the winery. It was from a vineyard in Somerset West, that was “grubbed-up” shortly after our harvesting. 8 tons were harvested, 20% whole bunch fermented, all-natural yeast, aged in old wood, bottled fined but un-filtered. It remains the finest wine I believe I have ever produced, and the fact that only a single vintage was produced is part of the mystic. At a time when many in SA were producing big bold Shirazes, heavily oaked in (often) American Oak, this was a departure. The Rhone has always been a reference for me, and my regular visits there help me re-calibrate our wines. More recently, I have enjoyed visiting the vineyards of the Douro – the spectacular landscapes, the humility and generosity of the people, and the incredible gastronomy are unparalleled. The Douro has a special significance for me, as it was the last trip that I did together with my mentor, and friend, the late Tim Rands, in 2014. His vision, intellect, and leadership were an absolute inspiration to me, and many others in our industry.

Q: Please give us your opinion on the addition of fine wine to the Strauss & Co auction portfolio?

A: As South Africa is increasingly being seen as a reliable, consistent, producer of fine wine, this initiative is an obvious and much-needed extension of this position.