Opinionista Michael Fridjhon 9 September 2013

Alive and well – notes from the Nederburg auction

This year’s Nederburg auction confounded the Jeremiahs who had been predicting the demise of the Cape’s longest running and best-established premium wine event. In the (dare one say immortal?) words of Mark Twain, the reports of its death turned out to be exaggerated.

With predictions of its demise grinding through the rumour mill, this year’s Nederburg auction was anything but dead. With a resilience and buoyancy that surprised even the organisers, the sale achieved almost double its low estimate, yielding R4.36-million at an average of R355 per litre, compared with the 2012 average of R185. There were very few unsold lots and almost every comparative statistic shows that the 2013 sale broke the records of previous auctions.

On the way it has thrown down the gauntlet to the Guild sale, which is to be held on 5 October. Lowering available volumes (compared with previous years) and tightening up on the selection has injected new life into Nederburg. The Guild, whose entry criteria have also been raised, has elected to increase the number of cases on offer for 2013. Will it still power forward, as it has been doing for the past few years, or will it show signs of stumbling? (Everyone seems to insist on making the old, pointless comparison of the young bull and the old bull; there are more cows in the paddock than both can reasonably service.)

The much more interesting question relates to what the market is buying. Nederburg’s focus is generally more mature wines while the Guild is more like a yearling sale. Until recently, the popular wisdom has maintained that Cape wines don’t have the same maturation potential as the great European appellations. Lately, the industry has made an effort to bury this myth, whose origins reside in some quite shoddy winemaking (from the mid-1980s until 10 years ago). The resurgence of the Nederburg sale (and the fact that Singita, which sells its purchases to well-heeled international visitors, was the biggest buyer) suggests a new respect for wines with some bottle age, and bodes well for the future prospects of both auctions. DM

For a full set of results from the Nederburg Auction, held 6 – 7 September in Paarl, go to winewizard.co.za.

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