The 2013 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction
The upcoming 29th annual Cape Winemakers Guild auction offers a terrific buying opportunity for American wine lovers interested in picking up some scarce and excellent South African wines from some of the country's most talented winemakers. Not only is these year's collection consistently good, but the South African rand is nearly 15% weaker against the U.S. dollar than it was a year ago. Among the highlights of my tastings this year was a series of 2011 shiraz bottlings that transcended the vintage.
The upcoming 29th annual CWG auction will be held on Saturday, October 5, at the Spier estate in Stellenbosch. (The annual CWG event is sponsored by Nedbank, one of South Africa's largest banks. The Trust established by Nedbank supports the education and social needs of farm workers, their families and their communities.)
The CWG has teamed up with international on-line auction portal www.the-saleroom.com. This will enable interested wine enthusiasts who don't plan to be South Africa in early October to participate on-line at www.the-saleroom.com. You will be able to watch and listen to the auction as it progresses and bid in real time for the items you're interesting in purchasing.
Interested buyers can sign up on the website www.the-saleroom.com free of charge and browse through the auction catalogue. The actual live bidding requires only a wi-fi connection and can be done from anywhere in the world.
The limited lots of wines on offer at this year's event represent, in theory at least, the best of South African winemaking. The wines are specially crafted to showcase the potential of South African wines to the trade and private buyer. As in past years, the selection of auction wines is distinctly winemaker-driven--hence my decision to provide the winemaker's name as part of each tasting note. In order to be invited to become a member of the Guild, winemakers must have established a track record for making outstanding wines for at least five years.
Most of the auction bottlings are extremely limited--typically just a half barrel to two barrels of wine--and are sold in lots of 12 bottles (6 magnums, 12 x 500-ml. bottles or 12 x 375-ml. bottles). The 2012 auction, for example, featured a total of 2,517 cases of 6 bottles, with prices ranging from $80 for a case of 6 bottles to as high as $445 (my figures represent conversions from South African rand prices at the then-current exchange rate). In other words, some very fine wines can be had at remarkably moderate prices.
Another way to bid on any of these items is via proxy. Here's how to proceed: You must complete a Purchasers Card and a Bidding Form indicating the number of cases of each wine you would like to buy and the maximum amount per case you'd like to bid. Proxy bidders will then bid on your behalf at the auction. If your bid is successful, you can ship purchased wines either using your own shipping agent or through the Guild's courier company, The Vineyard Connection. Interested bidders should contact General Manager Kate Jonker at 27 (0)21 852 0408 or firstname.lastname@example.org for further details and to obtain a copy of the Purchasers Card and Bidding Schedule.
I had the chance to taste more auction wines than ever before, and the only bottle that I found disappointing was the 2007 Grangehurst Reserve Stellenbosch, a Bordeaux blend that showed a strong dill pickle quality.
Please note that, as in the past, I have had no choice but to describe CWG auction items without recourse to the words "Auction Reserve," which actually appear on a number of labels, as this phrase has been trademarked by a U.S. importer who is quite adamant about reserving it for his own use in the U.S. market. But it should be clear from my notes which wines I am referring to.