Monis Collectors Port 1948 and Chateau Libertas 1968. (Photos: Wine & I, Whisky Online Auctions)
  • Wine lovers paid more than R5 million for the wines on offer at this year's Nederburg auction - and a record-high average price of R590 per bottle was achieved.
  • A 1968 Chateau Libertas (R5,000) and a 1948 Monis port (R7,000) fetched some of the highest prices per bottle.
  • Pick n Pay was the biggest buyer at the auction.

Wine lovers paid R5,000 per bottle of Chateau Libertas at this weekend’s Nederburg Auction, and R21,000 for three bottles of Monis port.

Of course, these weren’t just any old bottles of Chateau Libertas and Monis – which you can currently get for R49 and R95 respectively at your local liquor store.

The Chateau Libertas red dated back to 1968, and is described in the auction catalogue as tasting of “soft liquorice and caramel toffee”.

The Monis Collectors Port was bottled seventy years ago, in 1948. It tastes  “nutty” with “raisin notes”. The sellers say you can keep it for at least another decade before you drink it. 

The highest auction price for a white wine was R833 per bottle of Hermanuspietersfontein Nr. 5, 2012 and the most expensive Méthode Cap Classique (sparkling wine) was R1,000 per bottle Le Lude Vintage Brut Agrafe 2012.

The noble late harvest that scored the highest price was a 1996 Nederburg Edelkeur – R1,500 per 375ml.

In all, more than R5.2 million wine was sold at this year’s Nederburg auction – at a ­­record-high average price per bottle of R590. This is 9% higher than last year, and a whopping 424% more than the average price achieved in 2012.

At the 2018 Nederburg auction, held this weekend in Paarl. (Photo: Nederburg Auction)

According to the organisers, Pick n Pay was the biggest buyer at the auction, with 9% of total sales, followed by Conservation Company Singita with 5.5%, hotel group Tsogo Sun at 4.3%, and 3.7% for Big Five Duty Free, which operates out of airports.

The South Africa wine industry has two big auctions every year: Nederburg and Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) auctions. Nederburg is open to all producers, while CWG is invitation only.

Michael Jordaan. (Nederburg Auction)

In his speech at the auction, former FNB CEO and Bartinney wine farm co-owner Michael Jordaan highlighted a number of the challenges – and opportunities – for the wine industry:

  • Only 14% of South African wine producers are "sustainably" profitable. “Half struggle by with very low or no profit, at the mercy of every shock in the weather, the vines or the market. Almost four in ten wine producers run at an outright loss.”
  • The area of land under wine grape vineyards in South Africa has declined by 7% over the last ten years, and that decline has accelerated since 2015.
  • South Africa has lost almost a quarter of its primary grape producers, and the number of cellars has also been trending downwards.
  • However, South Africans consumed almost 22% more wine last year than five years ago. 
  • Because of the severe drought in the Western Cape, wine production for 2018 was down 15% year-on-year. But “while the drought has slashed production, it has also increased grape quality, which makes for less, but better wine.”
  • South Africa’s wine growing regions are perilously close to the 20°C line, above which few, if any, wine grape varietals grow. However, wine producers – particularly those in the Swartland – are adapting. Swartland vintners have replaced most of the traditional stock with varieties from the south of France and the Mediterranean that are better suited to the climate.
  • There is an opportunity for South African wine exporters in the premium wine segment – if it can change perceptions. Currently South Africa is known as for its “value-priced bulk wine”; 60% of South Africa’s exports still consist of bulk wine.
  • Another opportunity lies in organic wine, which is seeing growing demand. There are only 17 certified organic producers in South Africa, and a mere two certified biodynamic producers.

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