Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction celebrates South Africa's winemaking skill and tenacious spirit

13 April, 2021

Wine lovers will have the opportunity to get their hands on some rare gems at the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction on May 22.

It will take place in a hybrid format for the first time, meaning that buyers from across the world can tune in and bid for the wines online.

Some of the rarest wines that will go under the gavel of Christie’s auctioneer Charlie Foley include Chateau Libertas 1970, Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2009, Le Lude Rose Agrafe 2012, Nederburg Private Bin Eminence 1999, Uva Mira O.T.V 2015, Vilafonte Series C 2005,  and Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon 1970.

The wines for the auction were selected by a panel of respected South African wine insiders, including Cathy van Zyl MW, Michael Fridjhon and François Rautenbach.

Older bottles of well-preserved South African wine are becoming increasingly rare due to a dearth of temperature-controlled cellars in the past.

Cape Fine & Rare has sourced several pristine bottles for the hybrid auction, which will see 50 bidders attend in-person. Some go back as far as the 1960s.

Foley, who worked in Constantia before joining Christie’s, expects it to be a popular event. “We’ve had more bidders and buyers in the last year than we’ve ever had before,” he told Drinks International. “Christie’s clients want anything that’s rare really. Our clientele have dinner with friends and they want to bring out something that wows. In the case of these rare South African wines – David & Nadia, Eben Sadie and the early Kanonkop wines – you just can’t find them anywhere else.

“A 1999 Kanonkop was selling in 2019 for something like £50 a bottle, but the only place I can find it is in Japan at £150. Bidding at auction allows you to get things at an amazing price that no one else has.”

Some of South Africa’s leading brands emerged in the 1990s, and there were some gems of the era, which have been preserved over the past two decades. These wines could represent a strong investment opportunity due to their rarity.

Wine Cellar SA predicts that annual long-term returns of 10% to 20% are achievable on fine South African wine.

“South African fine wines present a real opportunity for both experienced collectors and those taking their first steps towards building a collection,” said Foley, who is renowned for wearing colourful jackets during auctions. “Fine wines from the country are of exceptional quality but are the lowest priced worldwide. This makes them excellent value for money. Now is definitely the time to be trying South Africa’s fine and rare wines.”

He appreciates the potential of South African fine wine to increase in value and preserve the holder's wealth in the years ahead, but Foley expects most bidders to drink the wine they secure.

“You always hope that the clients are drinking the wine. Some cases we see coming back of Henri Jayer and those sort of things. That’s just the nature of the blue chip market. In the case of wines at a certain price point, our clients are probably drinking them.

“South Africa has always had that place between Old World and New World. It’s got that ripeness of the New World style wines, but then also that elegant restraint of Old World wines. For the last few years, South Africa has really hit the nail on the head, offering both ripeness and restraint at the same time. You can find wines that you want to drink. I always say with investment that’s the key thing, because if you are investing in something and you want to resell it, with Bordeaux and Burgundy that’s all good – or it has been in the past – but if fails then you want to be able to drink it.”

The South African wine trade has endured a very challenging year, as production, domestic sales and exports have all been significantly hampered by strict measures designed to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“It’s terrible really, because they’ve had five restricted periods and it has been more difficult to find volume wines from South Africa on shelves, because of export issues,” said Foley. “That has been a problem. South Africa in the past few years has been trying to premiumise away from its traditional [position] alongside Chile and Australia of vast swathes of ripe wine for the supermarkets. It has interrupted the premiumisation process, which is a bit sad, but we’re going to come roaring back and that should be great.

“The whole scheme of selling wine in South Africa has changed, and this particular auction is about a panel of expert judges taking a panel of excellent wine from the trendiest producers and offering it mainly now South African privates, but the aim of Christie’s involvement is obviously international privates, because you want to get bang for your buck. They are happy to sell in rand, but would rather sell in pounds or Swiss francs or dollars.

“The thing that’s grown up in the New World that’s quite interesting, in Napa and now in South Africa, is allocation. David & Nadia is a good example of these beautiful Chenins from Swartland, made in tiny quantities from old bush vines, and you can only get them when they release their vintages to their agents. It’s the same way you can only get DRC at Corney & Barrow. If you’re not on the allocation, you’re not getting it, so the auction is a way for people to explore those wines, to get hold of an allocation, which is the future of collectible New World wine.”

The auction will feature all manner of rare wines, including Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon 1961, Graham Beck Brut 1994, Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 1994, David & Nadia Hoe – Steen Chenin Blanc 2017, Lammershoek Die Ounooi 2018 Chardonnay, Sadie Family Vineyards Soldaat 2017, David & Nadia Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2015, Delaire Graff Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, and Kanonkop Paul Sauer Bordeaux Blend 2009.

Foley is particularly excited about the Chenin and Cabernet. “I’m always blown away by South African Chenin. The Loire is all well and good, but it’s hit and miss on various different sweetness levels, but dry Chenin from the Swartland is just amazing. I would just stock up on all of those. Cabernet has really found its way in Stellenbosch, from the Cabernet Collective. Older things from Kanonkop are good. Look out for rare things in larger formats from old vintages.”

Keywords: cape, fine, cape fine

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