Two of the few South African wines to make it onto Wine Spectator's annual Top 100 lists were among those sold for the highest prices at the 26th annual Nederburg Auction of fine wines held in Paarl, South Africa, this past weekend.
The most important wine auction in South Africa, Nederburg focuses primarily on mature wines and special releases from the country's winemakers. This year's event drew a record number of 64 participating wineries, featuring a total of 141 different bottlings offered in more than 1,000 lots. The sale reached a new record of 5,867,000 rand (about $900,000), up 6 percent from last year. Overall, the average price per case went up by 16 percent.
More than 1,600 guests from all over the world -- including nearly 200 retailers who were registered bidders -- attended the glamorous event, held April 7 and 8. As has been the custom since the auction's inception, in 1974, London wine expert and auctioneer Patrick Grubb conducted the bidding.
The serious business of selling wines was augmented with a number of social events, including a sit-down lunch for 1,700, a preauction tasting, a fashion show and a charity auction that raised nearly $13,000 for the Hospice Association of South Africa.
Among the wines that solicited keen interest was the Saxenburg Shiraz Stellenbosch Private Collection 1993 (90 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale, $16 per bottle on release), which made it onto Wine Spectator's Top 100 list for 1996. Only 24 6-bottle cases were offered, selling for a top price of 225 rand ($34) per bottle -- a price that is very high by South African standards, though it seems like a veritable bargain compared to auction prices in the United States, where top California wines go for hundreds of dollars per bottle.
Winemaker Gyles Webb took his Thelema wines to the auction for the first time, selling the last 80 cases of a reserve version of his 1997 Chardonnay (91, $21 on release), which was the only South African wine to make last year's Top 100. Vigorous bidding led to a high price of 250 rand ($38) per bottle.
A Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery 75th anniversary collection comprising two bottles each of Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinotage 1974 was sold at the highest per-bottle price paid for red wine, 5,000 rand ($765). With its first appearance at the Nederburg Auction, the Alto estate, famous in South Africa, sold a 12-bottle case of the Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 1965 for an astonishing 7,400 rand ($1,130).
Also selling for top prices were six bottles of Kanonkop Paul Sauer 1991, at 1,800 rand ($275), and 12 bottles of Lanzerac Pinotage 1969 -- the last lot up for bid -- for 6,400 rand ($975). The auction traditionally closes with the sale of a case of Lanzerac Pinotage, the first commercially bottled and marketed South African Pinotage.
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