Dani and Alan Pick
This year's CWG
auction held at Spier on the 1st October proved two things. Firstly, that the economic downturn has hardly
pierced the wallet of the wine buyer, and secondly, that the generous spirit
that pervades the wine world is still alive and kicking.
side of the auction saw an 18 litre bottle (yes, 24 'normal' bottles)
comprising a blend chosen by Guild winemakers, achieve R25,000. Its buyer,
who also purchased the previous two years charity auction items, then asked
that it remain in Stellenbosch - 'the home of fine wine' - to be opened and
enjoyed when the charity's first protégé (the charity nurtures young
winemakers as part of an upliftment programme) becomes the first to achieve
membership of the Guild.
On a similar generous note, the various wines and
events offered by members received bids often way in advance of their 'paper'
value and added some R132,600 to the scheme's coffers. Which is only right and
The Guild's Development trust,
set up in partnership with Nedbank, has now seen the fruit of one of its aims,
to support deserving young winemakers who otherwise might not get the
opportunity, through their education and training and into the real world. Already the scheme has produced Howard
Booysen, articulate and passionate about wine and now producing wine under his
own label. In addition, funds go to
supporting two schools and few could argue the grass roots application of the
Guild's efforts. This is a real and
effective upliftment programme and Gary Jordan for one, is convinced of its value
and good intention. The three charming
students, overseeing the silent auction bids who are currently being supported,
were in no doubt of its value.
So the charity
side of the auction felt quietly reassuring.
The main auction was less predictable.
Auction wines are special batches, so there is no comparison with
another product. Ataraxia's CWG Chardonnay, for example, is not their normal
Chardonnay, so prices can be misleading to the uninformed buyer. These are
special wines, created to showcase the winemaker's art. But it goes beyond
this. Rianie Strydom of Haskell Vineyards sees them as important PR tools,
showing the world what South Africa can do. She
hopes a united industry, including the press, can get behind them and celebrate
the quality that South Africa is producing.
definitely not a moneymaking exercise", agrees Peter Finlayson, "lots of
producers don't make great money here, just think of the special labelling,
packaging and extra time and effort". Peter
was bemused to see his 2009 Pinot Noir make less than last year by R110 a
bottle (average), but remained 'very happy'.
A feeling shared, perhaps, by guild Chairman Louis Strydom whose 2009 Ernie
Els CWG red achieved less than last year as did Etienne le Riche's 2008 Auction
Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Etienne was
hoping for R2500 a case (average, for 6 bottles) and achieved R2393, so the
disappointment was minor. Overall, the
average price per case was up on 2010, from R1,683 to R1,788, but still not as
high as 2007, 2008 or the R2,289 in 2009.
Perhaps the only sign of a damaged world economy.
discounts were very obvious in the prices achieved. As in retail generally, it paid to 'go big'.
Buying the sole ten case lot of Luddite The Chosen One 2008 would have cost you
R14,000; or R233 a bottle, buying a two case lot would cost R5200, or R433 a
bottle, a premium of 85%. Even bagging
the top achieving Boekenhoutskloof Syrah
Auction Reserve 2009 in its six case lot at R666 a bottle would have saved you
50% on buying the two case lots at R1000 a bottle. Those who can bid R31,000 (R35,650 with VAT,
insurance and delivery) for the 10 case lot of Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer
2008, will often win the day.
then, but the rest of the action was stellar. Records were set for the highest
price paid for 6 bottles (R6000 for the Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Auction Reserve
2009) and the total amount spent (R5.28m) and number of cases
sold rose by 28%.
A side to the
auction that is harder to quantify is its role in establishing South African wines on the
international stage and as investment propositions. The auction is open to
private buyers and collectors and their numbers were steadily rising. In 2009,
71 of the audience were private buyers, in 2010, 76 were. This year there were
69 private bidders. Fewer, yes, but just as keen.
Some of the bidders are
regular attendees. I spoke to one family who have been buying wine here 'for
special occasions and as gifts for friends' for more than twenty years. "These
are definitely investment wines, with long futures ahead of them," said
Waterford's Kevin Arnold. A point increasingly being picked up by overseas
retailers. This year, some R1.5m (30% of the total) was spent by 19
international buyers and will see CWG wines on (limited) shelves rubbing
shoulders with the best of the rest of the world. The auction is providing an essential
opportunity for top end South African wines to show what can be achieved and should
continue to chip away at the image of exported South African wine as being of poor
quality. Small steps, but in the right direction.
winemakers echoed the hope that gradually the numbers of private buyers will
increase and that CWG wines will be driving the establishment of icon wines at
home and abroad. These wines could form
the basis of an investment market, traded as assets as part of the R21bn
already being spent on trading wine worldwide.
Asian buyers have yet to make a mark at the CWG auctions, but it can
only be a matter of time before they take notice of the quality, prestige - and
collectability - of these wines. When
they do, the CWG auction could change forever.
Very nice and well deserved by the Guild winemakers, but bad news for
the local private buyer. A shame really, the CWG auction offers anyone the
opportunity to purchase special wine and has an unstuffy 'local is lekker' feel to it despite its international intentions.