The 41st Nederburg Rare South African Wine Auction raised a record R6,2 million over the past two days, in what is one of the highlights of the wine industry events calendar. A total of 67 wineries, four being new (Anura, Axe Hill, Bloemendal, Pella) this year, participated in the Auction.
The second highest average price per liter was achieved this year, says Nederburg Auction Manager Dalene Steyn. The trend of last year to achieving premium price continued this year, the largest number of private buyers ever creating strong competitive bidding, with an average price per liter of R576. Record price per liter was achieved for the Fortified, Cap Classique, Port, and Dry White wine categories. UK wine judge Tim Atkin said that our local wines are still undervalued, especially Fortified, and Sweet wines. An 1800 275 ml Joubert-Tradauw Jaubert Family Muscat fetched a record R42500.
Tsogo Sun was the largest buyer, at R643000, followed by Spar Western Cape, Distell, Spar Eastern Cape, and Southern Rhino International. The Charity Auction raised R258000, benefiting The Breytenbach Centre and Hope Through Action.
The keynote speaker was Robert Joseph, UK wine judge, writer, wine competition organizer, and lover of red shoelaces. He made it clear that traditional ways of making marketing decisions need to be modernized to keep up with the times. He cited the Auction as one way of proudly selling one’s wine locally.
Joseph said that our wine industry has a lot going for it, in South Africa itself with a burgeoning Black Market, as well as Africa on our doorstep, a growing USA market without any prejudices to counter as must Australia, and talented young viticulturists. He warned about intellectualising wine in marketing it, relating how he was part of a group of friends that went on holiday recently. His friends drank the wine he brought along, but without any discussion. They just drank the wine because they liked it! Similarly, he said, we do not discuss the coffee, water, etc that we drink! He showed charts which illustrate that consumers buy wine like beer, asking for a glass of wine by cultivar and not by vintage or brand, much like a beer. A small number of wine drinkers will order a brand making an Issues Driven Purchase, such as ordering a Fairtrade wine. Joseph is launching a new Marketing book ‘The Wine Marketing Toolkit’ later this year.
He warned the wine industry against following what were traditional marketing and production methods of their fathers, or to be guided by wine critics, having a decreasing degree of influence over wine buyers. He related that fruit flavored wines have taken off dramatically in France, good news for our industry as they are using South African bulk wines. In 2010 38% of the French did not drink wine, and this is expected to increase to 42 % this year!
Packaging represents the ‘conversation skills‘ of wines. The back label information about the method of production, the foods the wine should be paired with, and more, is largely not of interest to the wine buyer. He questioned why the industry is still bottling in 750ml glass, when this packaging dates back centuries. He showed us square packs, as well as sealed wine by the glass. Joseph spoke about closures, expressing his dislike for cork, but screw caps not being suitable for premium wines either, wondering why no alternative closures have been developed. He advised that premium wines be offered with gift boxes, for sale at duty-free but also at the cellar door and in retail outlets, particularly important for the Chinese market, he said. He has noted a trend to an increasing number of wines sold in gift packaging.
Pricing is always what the market will bear. He cited a number of brand examples where consumers will buy up and pay more ‘because you’re worth it‘, the pay-off line for L’Oreal for the past 40 years. He cited Apple and Starbucks as examples of more expensive brands being bought by consumers, even if it is irrational behaviour defying value for money.
Communication should be story-based, and he critically said that Bio-diversity is NOT a story. He encouraged our industry to tell the story about our wines better. Joseph mentioned Vivino, an App with 10 million users worldwide, providing a rating score, what has been said about a wine, and predicting if one will like it, all provided when scanning a bottle of wine in a store or elsewhere. He said even more powerful is when he points the phone at a bottle, and it has a Buy button, with delivery the following day! The Take App allows one to buy products one sees in movies, giving a new dimension to product placements in movies. Influencer wine recommendations are on the decline, and direct sales are the way to go, he recommended.
Design was also the theme of a workshop by ever so stylish former ELLE South Africa Editor Jackie Burger of Salon 58 (a double link to her dates of birth she explained), showing design trends. She urged the participants to wear clothing and accessories which express ‘This is my style’, and quoted Karl Lagerfeld, who said that one should love fashion and not be intimidated by it. She recommended that one keep the base of one’s wardrobe and update it seasonally, be it with accessories, or changing some of the detail with the assistance of a good tailor. One should buy clothing, shoes, and accessories spontaneously, ‘from the gut‘! Dress reflects one’s ‘fashion ID‘, much as one’s house is, she said. Accessorising makes what one wears one’s ‘signature‘.
She showed fashion trends for the season to come, including pale blue, French Navy, denim, culottes, exotic prints (Eastern design in particular), the camel coat, sleeveless blouses, blazers, vintage kimonos imported from Japan, low-heeled shoes (sliders and sneakers), tunic dresses, maxi dresses, tan leather shoes, extra long belts and looping them over an outfit, pencil skirts, and more. The most unusual item was a black tunic decorated with Tiger’s eye stones in various shapes and sizes, by designer Adriaan Kuiters.
Lunch for 575 guests was served in a special marquee set up for the event, at tables for ten, with one long wall filled with cardboard boxes and greenery,proteas hanging with ribbons, brass lampshades over the serving counter, and burgundy red (the Nederburg corporate colour) banners hung from the ‘ceiling’. Proteas and orchids were the flowers used throughout the event.
Sommeliers from various hotels served the wines, while serving staff was professional in bringing and clearing plates. Design on the tables was minimal, making the Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Riesling 2015 and Nederburg The Brew Master Johann Graue 2011 the centre of attraction of the table. I sat at the table of charming L’Avenir winemaker Dirk Coetzee and his colleagues, and next to Annemie Adriaanse, a former colleague, who was kind in finding an Auction book for me, which I had missed out on at registration. Music by Acoustic Element (violin and guitar, particularly upbeat) and Sands of Time added to the atmosphere.
Wooden platters of artisanal bread baked by Fritz Schoon at Schoon de Companje, with thick wedges of farm butter, were brought to the table. Schoon has encouraged Free State grain farmer James Moffat to plant heirloom and old varieties of wheat, from which he bakes sourdough, baguettes, banana and chocolate loaves, and more.
Chef Chris Erasmus of Foliage in Franschhoek created the aromatic soup of smoked line fish dim sum, sorrel, preserved lemon fermented chili, and Tom Yum, which was paired with the Nederburg Riesling.
He also prepared the very tender slow BBQ beef brisket, served with fennel, forest mushrooms (pine rings
foraged from a small collection of trees not far from his restaurant), potato, wood sorrel, and chickweed salad. This was paired with the Nederburg The Brewmaster at our table, and The Anchorman at other tables.
Our dessert was made by Chef Gustaaf Boshoff of Stir Foods, a subsidiary of the Aleit Group, a composition of bitter-sweet chocolate and dried cep flower pot, rose geranium chocolate rocks, carrot cultured cream, and distinctive Buchu ice cream, the latter a hit at our table, evoking many childhood memories of its medicinal usage. This was served with Monis Medium Dry Sherry NV.
We enjoyed our day at Nederburg, an interesting mix of talks, fashion, design, wines, and food. Well done to the Aleit Group and the many others involved for its organisation.