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South African wines fetch ground-breaking prices on auction

Tabernacle wines on auction

Sunday’s Strauss & Co Tabernacle auction saw ground-breaking results. During the virtual online auction, vintage South African red wines from the mid-20th century were in high demand. Ultimately, it was a showcase of an ultra-rare treasure trove from the Stellenbosch-based Tabernacle cellar. The underground cellar is the historic home to Distell’s wine library – the largest collection of vintage South African wines.

Wines on auction

SA wine treasures

Despite the turmoil of recent years, South African fine wine is entering a period of unprecedented strength on the global stage. In fact, in recent years international wine critics gave six local wines 100 points. And, there have been numerous wine auction records, with a bottle of 1821 Grand Constance selling for over R500 000. A second bottle of the same Grand Constance fetched just short of a million Rand.

Tabernacle Tasting

Heritage from history

Many of South Africa’s most exciting wine history moments seem to come with an element of the illicit to them. For one, there is the legend of the country’s first Chardonnay cuttings and their undercover arrival. Also, the legend of the GS Cabernet Sauvignon, supposedly vinified by the self-taught winemaker George Spies. Apparently, he acted explicitly without his employer’s approval. Finally, one might also add the genesis of The Tabernacle to that list. A cellar that was built within the Stellenbosch Farmer’s Winery, with dubious methods of budget approval. Eventually it became one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of vintage South African wines, with bottles dating as far back as 1791.

Wine fanatics will recognise vintages like 2015, 2017 and 2021. But, other moments are a little more subtle and tend to be overlooked. Duimpie Bayly – South African wine folk hero – had an almost prescient recognition for Stellenbosch wines coming from the 1950s, -60s and -70s. And, it was this insight that triggered him into action. His curation lasted decades, carefully managing, maintaining and augmenting a collection. Eventually he handed the responsibility to people like Bennie Howard and later Michael van Deventer.

The Tabernacle cellar Interior

Choosing wines to put up for auction

In June 2022, a full catalogue of wines up for auction from The Tabernacle was opened for inspection. This was done under the protection of an argon gas blanket. Strauss & Co fine wine specialists Higgo Jacobs and Roland Peens, along with wine critic Christian Eedes were on hand to taste and assess each wine. Finally, once the wines had proven worthy (or not) the bottles were topped up with reserve wine from the same vintage, recorked and resealed. This all under the supervision of a technical team from Amorim Corks.

Amorim Recorking Process

Strauss & Co Tabernacle Auction results are in

During the auction, GS 1966 reached R43 244 per bottle while the 1968 was sold at a record price of R34 140 per bottle, all including commissions. Lanzerac’s first commercial vintage of Pinotage 1959 showed competitive bidding up to R18 760 per bottle, and Zonnebloem’s famous 1963 Cabernet reached R16 415. In addition, and perhaps the rarest wine of the 99-lot line-up, was an unreleased bottle of Meerlust 1978. This wine fetched R15 243 per bottle, while Nederburg’s Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve from the great 1974 vintage reached R12 518.

A rather small amount of international vintage wines were also on offer, including 67 and 71 Chateau Petrus, reaching R73 970 per bottle!

For more information, visit www.straussart.co.za/wine.

Strauss & Co The Tabernacle

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