Reports 27 November 2019

Christie’s to auction two ‘superlots’ of South African wine

The auction on 28 November 2019 features highlights of South Africa’s Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction

Words by Peter McCombie MW

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From the moment the Nederburg Auction was established in 1975, it was an important opportunity for South African wine producers to establish their reputation.

Now owned by Libertas Vineyards & Estates, the new fine wine division of Distell, the auction has been reinvented this year as the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction. Long respected in South Africa, the auction aims to further extend its global influence, while continuing to champion the South African wine industry by supporting the preservation of the industry’s rich and rare heritage and supporting charities working in the Cape wine lands.

Entry to the auction is open to any South African wine producer, and wineries are encouraged to enter their best and rarest bottlings, which are then selected after a rigorous two-stage tasting process by a panel that comprises Cathy van Zyl MW, critic and columnist Michael Fridjhon, and respected industry insider François Rautenbach.

The first stage involves a desktop review of entries according to pre-determined criteria (brand recognition and demand, quality, rarity and provenance). The second, a blind tasting. Alongside the tough quality assessment wines are also – uniquely – judged on their investment potential. The entire process was audited.

As part of the assessment, older bottles are checked for ullage and possible faults, topped up with wine from the same vintage where appropriate and gassed with argon before recorking. Each bottle is numbered and bears a seal with a traceable alpha-numeric number and each new cork is also numbered with a traceable alpha-numeric number.

The ‘superlots’ will reward potential buyers because of the variety of styles on offer, the personalities of the wines and the potential upward price movement

Every wine in the auction bears the Cape Fine and Rare Wine Auction seal, which means it reflects three criteria: the wine represents the pinnacle of its winemaker’s skill and is no longer commercially available, the wine has passed the selection process, and the wine is assessed as being capable of further evolution and maturity, providing investment potential.

On 28 November, Christie’s will auction two ‘superlots’ representing some of the highlights in its sales of Finest and Rarest Wines and Spirits at King Street, London.

Auctioneer Charlie Foley believes the ‘superlots’ will reward potential buyers because of the variety of styles on offer, the personalities of the wines and the potential upward price movement, which are only now entering the investment market.

With estimates of £1800-2000 and £1000-1200 respectively for the two lots, they also represent considerable value while offering genuine drinking pleasure.

The two ‘superlots’ were put together to offer a variety of styles, from the more traditional estates to the new, edgier single site selections, ensuring that buyers were offered a range of styles with the comfort of historically highly recognised brands, wines from some of the new “rockstar” personalities, and access to “new wave” site specific examples. Every bottle will offer personality, nuance and points of difference which justify the purchase and invite the purchaser to get to know Cape wines better, and in a new, more premium context. 

The wines were tasted in London on 21 November 2019.

The Fine & Rare Wine Auction takes place at Christie’s, King Street, London. The ‘superlots’ will open the afternoon session of the auction on 28 November 2019 at 2.30pm


Alheit Vineyards, Cartology, 2011
Part of the Old Vine Project, Cartology (from the study of maps) is a “vinous exploration of Cape heritage” made with minimal intervention that has already acquitted legendary status. 

Honeyed on the nose with teasing nuances of oatmeal, spice & vanilla, with a dry palate that offers complex,  subtle layers of flavour, and a long, elegant finish. Burgundy meets Rhone.

Boplaas Family Vineyards, Cape Vintage Reserve, 2006

There is a long tradition of fortified wine production in the Cape, notably here at Boplaas in the Little Karoo.

Big and rich, sweet and youthful fruit, still chunky, with tarry, tannic backbone. Ambitious, with ages left to develop and mature.

De Toren Private Cellar, Fusion V, 2004

De Toren’s blend of five Bordeaux varieties dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon aims to redefine the concept of Bordeaux in a South African concept.

Very ripe style, black fruit with a dusting of dried herbs, with liquorice and balsamic spice; evolved flavours in the mouth, with lingering sweet and confit fruit, yet quite firm, with enduring freshness and the promise of a long life ahead.

De Morgenzon, The Divas Chenin Blanc, 2013

Only two barrels of this first vintage of The Divas were made. Selected fruit from low yielding old Chenin vines was given minimal treatment to produce a wine of New World exuberance and European elegance.

The nose offers scents of lightly toasted nuts and  old hay barns; a richly textured, smooth, honeyed yet quite dry palate, that lingers for considerable time, with lovely weight & richness. Really approachable but feels like it will hold for some time.

Graham Beck, Blanc de Blancs, 2009

From one of the leading exponents of bottle fermented wines in South Africa, this Méthode Cap Classic illustrates the exciting potential that high quality Cape sparkling wines can have.

Golden colour; alluring toasted nuts and praline bouquet, with undertones of brioche crumbs toasted in butter; quite full and rich at first sip, without undue heft. Lovely creamy-edged acidity. Satisfying  & rewarding. Delicious.

Jordan Wine Estate, Nine Yards Chardonnay, 2015

This 300 year old Stellenbosch estate has been producing exceptional wines under the ownership of Gary & Kathy Jordan, since 1993.

Smart and sophisticated ‘New World Chardonnay’, ripe and generously oaky, with a subtle herbal undertone, bringing freshness; rich & savoury in the mouth, drinking nicely now, with excellent acidity and moderate power, that indicates it will age and improve.

Kanonkop Wine Estate, Pinotage 2006

A powerful expression of South Africa’s flagship red variety from an outstanding producer who has done more to tame this sometimes challenging grape than perhaps any other producer.

Densely coloured; roasted plums and tamarillos; quite generous and juicy palate, with Pinotage’s characteristic dry tannins superbly managed, smoke & newly turned earth season dark red flavours of cherry and plum. Dry finish. Very good wine.

Ken Forrester Wines, The FMC, 2009

From the “Home of Chenin Blanc” this wine from a master of South Africa’s most important white grape enjoys legendary status.

Seductive, almost Viognier-like aromas, richly fruity with poached peach and vanilla; quite fleshy and rich, but with restraining & balancing acidity. Really good in the bigger style. Crowd pleasing now, but worth ageing longer.

Rustenberg Wines, Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009

A single vineyard wine of magisterial reputation.

Ripe, darkly fruity, cassis with subtle herbal freshness, dark mint chocolate; sleek and smooth in the mouth, with richly textured black fruit and a slightly stern, but fine tannic backbone. Layers of flavour, hints of tobacco. Serious and smart. Long life ahead.


Bartinney, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011

From old vines planted at 550m above sea level on the dramatic slopes of Botmaskop overlooking the picturesque Banhoek Valley in Stellenbosch. Owners since 1953 the Jordaan family believe that every aspect must work in harmony: agriculture with nature, people with animals, sustainability with excellence.

Quite ‘Bordeaux’, fresh and crunchy, black fruit, cassis; dense fruit on the palate with leafy freshness supported by some austere firm, but fine tannins, a little tight still & ungiving showing the impetuousness of youth. One for the cellar.

David & Nadia, Hoë-Steen, 2016

Swartland’s husband and wife team David and Nadia, focus very much on vineyards, vines and terroirs, with minimal intervention in the cellar, to produce wines of purity, natural balance and freshness. Only one barrel made.

Fashionably reductive style, seductively mineral, with a spark of flint; limes and salinity, textured, savoury, waxy. This is really smart,  intellectual but not without sensuous charm. Persistent, citrus finish. Will be fascinating to see this wine evolve and mature.

Eikendal Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015

Archetypal Helderberg Cabernet, showing typical concentration and structure.

Elegant noise, ripe yet restrained, nor over-ripe, offering scents of just-opened cigar box, more leaf than cedar; while the palate shows a ‘New World’ generosity on an old world frame. Firm, not quite austere, elegant and beautifully crafted. A keeper.

Kaapzicht Wine Estate, 1947 Chenin Blanc, 2014

880 bottles only produced from the second oldest block of Chenin Blanc vines anywhere in the Cape.

Old gold in colour; offering a toasty, honeyed Chenin nose; savoury with an almost autolysis-like yeastiness and beautifully integrated oak, rich and some power. Honey and exotic spices linger on the dry finish.

Morgenster, Estate Reserve, 2004

Merlot dominated blend from a family owned estate with 300 years of history, in Somerset West.

Soft and plush attack, then freshness kicks in, as much acidity as tannin, warming and quite ripe, long lean but fine finish.

Plaisir de Merle, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1995

This Paarl estate boasting more than three centuries of history looks to France for its inspiration.

Minty, almost Coonawarra on first impression, ‘sweet’ exotic spice; while the plate is remarkably fresh and lively, leaner than some other South African Cabernets, medium weight, with flavours of plums and spice. Lovely fruitcake notes build on the long finish. Keep.

Richard Kershaw Wines, Kershaw Elgin Chardonnay, 2015

South Africa’s only winemaking Master of Wine Richard Kershaw makes elegant wines from cool climate Elgin.

Textbook new style old style Chardonnay, lovely flinty minerality, fresh stone fruit, laced with citrus; honeyed palate, finely poised, a touch youthful still, but lively citrus freshness with a  lick of salinity. Cellar it if you can bear not to drink it now.

Spioenkop Wines, 1900 Pinotage, 2011

Newcomer Spioenkop’s winemaker Koen Roose aims to make balanced fine wines in Elgin.

Open, soft red fruit nose, yet at once ambitious, almost Pinot-like; relatively soft and ready, not quite as sharp as a Pinot Noir, but will win friends for its accessibility.

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