Cape Wine Auction collage of picturesThe AfrAsia Bank Cape Wine Auction 2014 is an inaugural exclusive, almost elitist, charity event which aims to raise monies which are to be used for educational purposes in the Winelands.   It takes place at Delaire Graff Estate over lunch today, with 250 guests, half of whom are likely to travel from overseas to the Cape especially for the auction.

With an aura of a by-invitation-only attendance, Auction organiser Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick Wines invited 30 Auction Ambassadors to assist him in spreading the word about the event, to assist in raising lots for the auction, and to invite guests as bidders to the event. Ambassadors include May de Lencquesaing of Glenelly, Wendy Appelbaum of De Morgenzon, Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte, Rose and Michael Jordaan of Bartinney, Delaire Graff, Charles Banks of Mulderbosch, Paul Cluver, Jeremy Ord and Kevin Arnold of Waterford, Chris and Andrea Mullieneux and their partner ‘Anlajit’ (sic) Singh, Zelma Long and Dr Phil Freese of Vilafonte, the Buys family of Vrede en Lust, Francois Pienaar, Eben Sadie, Ryk Neethling, Jean Engelbrecht, Ken Forrester, Anthonij Rupert Wines, Lanzerac Estate, Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell, and Giorgio and George Dalla Cia.  One wonders why so many of the country’s top winemakers have not been involved in the Auction, the list of Auction Ambassadors clearly concentrated in Stellenbosch. Missing from the list, one would think, is Babylonstoren, Backsberg, Boekenhoutskloof, and a winery or two from the Constantia, Paarl, Wellington, Robertson, Tulbagh, and Durbanville Wine Routes, although a handful of wine estates from some of these wine routes have donated auction lots.

There are three beneficiary organisations of the Auction:

The Pebbles Project: provide support and training to local wine farm and township créches, the only Winelands charity of the three Auction beneficiaries. www.pebblesproject.co.za

MAD CHARITY™ (Make A Difference): founded by Francois Pienaar, and strives to give academically talented but economically disadvantaged youth in South Africa an opportunity to reach their full potential as leaders and role models.  www.madcharity.org

The Click Foundation: innovate and test non-conventional technology-based solutions that have the potential to impact education for individuals. www.clickfoundation.co.za

The 40 Auction lots include some rare treats, some being bucket list material, and include one week in California, enjoying accommodation, fine dining, and the scenery, as well as business class travel between South Africa and the USA, donated by Mulderbosch; accommodation and meals in New York, and train travel to Washington DC, donated by Cape Classics; a dinner for 12 hosted anywhere in the world and cooked by The Test Kitchen Chef Luke Dale Roberts, paired with Klein Constantia wines, offered by Klein Constantia; a complete collection of Eben Sadie’s Palladius and Columella wines; and the full collection of Meerlust Estate’s Rubicon wines from 1980 – 2009, a trip on the Rovos Rail, and lunch for four at Meerlust.  Bids can be placed via the internet or telephonically.

The catering is described as a ‘Gastronomic Banquet‘ prepared by ‘Grandes Chef’/’Grande Chef’ (sic) Margot Janse of The Tasting Room, one of only two Relais & Chateaux Grand Chefs in our country!

The Cape Wine Auction 2014 is an inaugural event, and therefore there is no benchmark about how much money will be raised at the auction today.  The generosity of the auction lots from the invited winemakers is commendable, but appears out of reach for many winelovers who may also want to contribute to the monies raised to benefit the three charities.  The event organisation has not been without its politics, some ambassadors having to be uninvited due to threats by other ambassadors that they would withdraw their support.  This is not in the spirit of the Auction one would think, and the good it is meant to do for others who are less advantaged.   The errors on the website are unforgivable for the elitist stature of the Cape Wine Auction 2014, and the website look and feel could be vastly improved!  Surprising is how low key the event has been on Social Media.

POSTSCRIPT 15/3:  The outcome of the Auction has been Tweeted/Facebooked as ranging from R5 million to over R 8,4 million.  The La Motte bid raised R300000; the Klein Constantia/The Test Kitchen dinner R220000; Hamilton Russell R120000; Warwick’s lot R170000; Glenelly raised R450000; Mulderbosch’s Californian lot R700000; Ellerman House R260000; De Morgenzon R400000; Mullineux’s lot went for R120000; Vrede en Lust R220000, Vilafonte R180000; New York package by Cape Classics R340000; Eben Sadie raised R340000; Thelema Wines R148000;  Dalla Cia R110000; Creation R80000; Delaire Graff R120000; Boekenhoutskloof R130000; Kanonkop R80000; Glen Carlou R80000; Meerlust R150000; Bartinney R120000; Ken Forrester R75000; Waterford Estate R160000; Groot Constantia R100000; Paul Cluver R55000; Val de Vie R65000; and Jordan Wines R90000.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com   Twitter: @WhaleCottage