Nederburg Charity Auction marks milestones in SA wine history

Some exceptionally rare wines, many of them marking events that irrevocably changed the landscape of South African wine such as the illegal importation of vines and the international cultural boycott against South Africa, will go on sale at the 2013 Nederburg Charity Auction in September.

This annual event, traditionally conducted after the main auction event, raises funds for community-orientated charity beneficiaries by auctioning unusual wine items, many with a high collectable status.

The 2013 line-up includes wines that come with both vinicultural lineage and historical significance, having marked important events in South African wine history. One such event was the backdoor importation of plant material at a time when a highly restrictive “embargo” was enforced that effectively stifled experimentation with new varietals.

These regulations, coupled with international trade boycotts that were soon to follow, potentially could have set back the SA wine industry’s international competitiveness considerably was it not for groups of winemakers smuggling vine cuttings into the country in boxes of chocolate, nappies and underwear.

One of these pioneers was De Wetshof winemaker Danie deWet, who in 1981 illegally imported cuttings of chardonnay vines through fellow winemaker Jan Boland Coetzee, who, while working in Europe at the time, managed to obtain chardonnay cuttings from the Clos des Mouches vineyard in Beaune.

These were surreptitiously brought to De Wet in a “box of chocolates” – and went on to father one of arguably the finest chardonnays produced in South Africa, the De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay 1998 – a wine that fetched over R700 a bottle at the 2011 Nederburg Auction and was described by the Wall Street Journal as tasting “like money”. A 750ml bottle of the flagship De Wetshof goes on auction at the charity event, donated by De Wet.

He and fellow “smugglers” were eventually called to testify to a Commission of Enquiry, one that ironically led to the lifting of the embargo and the formation of the Vine Improvement Association (VIA) in 1986 to fast track the improvement of plant materials through experimentation.

These events fortuitously helped the wine industry ready itself for the lifting of yet another embargo: a growth-stunting cultural and economic ban on the importation of South African goods (including wines) initiated by Sweden in the 80s that had left the local industry severely lagging internationally as producers of mostly Steen and Cape Riesling for bulk wine production.

Further irony is that today, Sweden is a major partner in the Nederburg Auction as a regular buyer and participant in the Charity Auction. Swedish importer Janåke Johansson this year is donating a 15-litre bottle of Capitel de’ Roari Amarone from the Luigi Righetti estate, a small family-run winery located in the heart of Italy’s Valpolicella Classico area and credited with having played a vital part in boosting the region’s status in the wine world.

The Nederburg Auction itself has had a significant historical impact on the local industry, setting the standard for premium wine sales and production since its introduction in 1975. This annual event was precipitated by former Nederburg cellarmaster Günter Brözel’s creation of a class of wine that could not legally be sold other than through auction – the famous botrytis wine Edelkeur.

This legacy continues in 2013 through Charity Auction donations from several of the inaugural Nederburg Auction participants, namely Simonsig, Overgaauw and Nederburg.

The Malan Family of Simonsig has donated a 9-litre Simonsig Tiara 2004, the estate’s highly awarded flagship red wine, while Overgaauw’s David van Velden has donated a rare 37-year-old 1 X 750ml bottle 1976 Vintage Port. Overgaauw was one of the first to produce Port from 100% Portuguese varietals.

In celebration of Nederburg Baronne’s ruby anniversary, cellarmaster Razvan Macici has donated a unique ten-bottle collection that features every one of the first ten vintages of Baronne, including a bottle of the maiden Nederburg Baronne vintage of 1973, while Alain Vallet from Grays Mauritius donated a 1 X 750 ml Nederburg Cabernet 1963, a wine originally sold at the 1995 Nederburg Auction and described then by wine writer Dave Hughes as “surprisingly fresh, despite its age”.

Longstanding supporters of the Charity Auction, the Rupert family, this year donated a La Motte 1 x 750 ml bottle Hanneli R 2007, donated by Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg. Bottled in September 2011, just 3,000 bottles of this wine were produced.

Boplaas cellarmaster Carel Nel has donated a 4 X 750 ml bottle collection of the Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port, rated 5 star by Platter’s SA Wine Guide. This collection of 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 will last for more than 50 years. They are some of the last vintages allowed with the word “Port” on the label.

The Nederburg Auction is about rare and unusual wines, but they don’t come much rarer than the donation by auctioneer Anthony Barne MW himself: a Barbeito Verdelho 1885 Madeira. The Verdelho varietal was once one of the most prolific vines but never regained its former pre-eminency after being badly afflicted by vine louse and phylloxera in 1872, making vintage Verdelho the rarest of Madeiras. Almost all have a wonderful freshness on the palate, the result of the volcanic soil on the island bringing to the wine a high natural acidity and agelessness.

Returning to more modern times, the Chenin Blanc Association has donated a collection of fine Chenins to the Charity Auction – a six-bottle collection of 5-star Platter’s SA Wine Guide Chenin wines representing the extensive depth of South African terroir diversity and winemaking. The collection consists of the Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2008, Stellenrust ‘45’ 2009, Botanica Chenin Blanc 2009, The FMC 2006, Nederburg Edelkeur 2009 and Mullineux Straw Wine 2008.

Finally Jacques Smit from Sabi Sabi has donated a three-night wilderness experience at the world’s Top African Lodge for 2012: Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge. This includes return flights from Johannesburg to Sabi Sabi, meals, all safaris and house selection of drinks.

The charity auction will be held in the auction hall at the close of the Nederburg Auction on Saturday, 7 September, prior to the luncheon. The Nederburg Charity Auction proceedings go towards the Goedgedacht Trust, the Pebbles Project Trust and the Anna Foundation. Visit

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