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Raise a glass to SA wine

Oct 16 2016 07:38

Some serious buying-power muscle was flexed at Spier during the annual Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) gathering, where sales exceeded R13.8 million and old records for various varieties weren’t so much toppled as tippled – this being a wine auction and all.

Now in its 32nd iteration, the CWG sale a fortnight ago attracted 152 buyers, politely raising paddles as they bid-battled their way through 52 types of wine from 41 different estates.

The auction, which has become an essential entry in the diaries of serious wine investors, certainly was a far cry from the Guild’s humble beginnings back in the 80s, when a handful of vintners vied for 19 wines from 15 estates at CWG’s first auction.

Top of the crop of connoisseurs were Hong Kong’s Crown Wine Cellars and our own Tsogo Sun, which was the biggest buyer for a third year in a row with total purchases of R2.6 million.

As for the wines themselves, Kanonkop’s CWG Paul Sauer 2013, made exclusively for the Guild, outsold its competitors for the second year in a row, netting R13 400 for a case of six.

But the Guild’s chair, Miles Mossop, wasn’t waxing lyrical about the overall tally of toast-worthy prices as much as he was about the day’s standout bid.

That bang of the gavel came when a buyer took the game away from his competitors with a mighty R40 000-swoop, raising the stakes from R110 000 to a hammer price of R150 000 for a box of magnums.

That sale, which formed part of the auction’s charity drive, brought the amount raised in aid of CWG’s Protégé Programme to R374 800.

The programme was started 10 years ago and is fashioned around a system of threes: up to three students at a time starting a three-year course in winemaking under the guidance of three different winemakers.

In addition to the programme, money is set aside to improve the skills of cellar workers, providing potential winemakers from poorer backgrounds with the necessary funding to pursue viticultural studies that would ordinarily be out of their reach.

Says Mossop: “In so doing, and through continuous funding from our primary sponsor, Nedbank, we work towards bridging the gap, lifting previously disadvantaged people up through the industry.”

He adds that cellar workers can qualify themselves up to NQF
Level 4.

The Guild has aid work stitched into its DNA, as the idea behind forming such an organisation stemmed from the need for winemakers to rally around restrictions they faced during the apartheid era.

Mossop recalls that it was about eight or nine vintners who got together in 1983 for the first time to address issues like not being able to trade outside the country.

“Independent winemakers and companies such as KWV weren’t able to put their wines out there, and yet they were still going overseas and looking at the industry abroad.

“So they wanted a forum to get together to benchmark themselves, to report back when they came back from their travels, and thereby help one another.”

That spirit of cooperation, says Mossop, is what has stood the industry in such good stead, “adding good value to the industry from the grape to the bottle.

“Wine, of course, is an aspirational commodity, but its reach across the sector says something about the role it plays in our economy.”

The sustained quality of South African wine is also continuously attracting overseas investors, private buyers and traders who, apart from interest out east, bring in buyers from countries such as the UK, Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Dubai, Brazil and the US to CWG’s auctions.

But the bulk of the wines at this year’s auction – 84% – were snapped up by local buyers who, apart from Tsogo Sun, included companies such as The Butcher Shop & Grill and Singita Game Reserve, as well as Mutle Mogase, the chair of Vantage Capital.

Mogase was one of many private buyers who frequently raised his bid-paddle as auctioneer Henré Hablutzel of Hofmeyr-Mills worked his way through a total of 2 428 cases of wine, sold at an average price of R5 697 per case, or R950 per bottle.

From a market point of view, Mogase is but one investor who represents a changing demographic that’s becoming ever more present at wine auctions.

For Mossop, though, the biggest development on the transformation front is the growing goodwill among buyers and the public at large.

Expressing his appreciation for the generosity shown by investors towards supporting this changing face of the wine industry, Mossop says: “We have been able to plough back into the industry by raising more than R1.95 million at various events this year for the development of talented young winemakers and viticulturists through the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Development Trust and our Protégé Programme.”

With regards to such a high, prominent level of upliftment, it is perhaps fitting to also mention Mark Solms, the owner of Solms Delta Wine Estate.

What Solms did, through investigating the land and lineage of the people on his farm by taking a deep look into the history of the property, involving academics from the University of Cape Town, and incentivising his workers by making them co-owners, is truly remarkable.

Together with Mossop, who, apart from his CWG duties also works as winemaker at Tokara, South African wine has set a course for radical redress right in the heartland of the Western Cape ,where the country’s original owners, the Khoi and San, were violently subjugated and enslaved.

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wine  |  farming  |  sa economy  |  agribusiness
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