Marketing is all about launching new ideas and selling the brand and South African wine is up against ever-increasing global competition. The Nederburg Auction is recognised by aficionados the world over with its aim to auction rare and mature wines. The event attracts international buyers resulting in the promotion of South African wines worldwide.
Like many successful projects, the auction came about because of a real need to showcase a new and novel wine style. The wine was the 1968 Nederburg Auction Edelkeur, a noble late harvest wine, golden in colour, with nuances of honey,rose petal, citrus and with a syrupy consistency on the tongue and aftertaste as legendary as its success. It has received global accolades yet this style at the time was not recognised and was rejected by the local wine board.
This spectacular product was handcrafted in the Nederburg cellars by German national, Günter Brözel: a man with an Italian passion for life and wine. He oozed enthusiasm, his eyes glinted with good ideas and he inspired many he shared his wine with. In his tastings, he described his wines as a romantic poetry rich in colour, flavour, potential and virtues. With this approach he shook the industry and inspired a generation of Cape winemakers.
Four decades later the auction has grown from five to over 100 producers. It continues to knock down beautifully crafted mature vintages no longer available in the market place and each wine carries the Auction’s gold seal of approval. This wine forum is an incentive to buy superb quality and continues to promote winemaking excellence around the globe. Tickets to the exclusive vitrine into the industry have always been in demand and attended by the most talented and experienced wine fraternity, journalists and leading hotel and restaurant trade.
The early days were splendour and glamour aimed at seducing the 800-guest list into bidding furiously in the auction room. Patrons were greeted with flutes of bubbles and lavishly entertained. This was the event in the wine industry to which men donned suits and ladies accessorised layers of colourful crimpoline with jewellery and hats.
My early memories were of very long hours of eating and drinking! A long room filled with round tables decked
with linen, flowers and finery while chef in white coats and soufflé hats, were handpicked to create the luncheon.
Oysters were shucked on arrival and giant prawns clinging onto a tin foiled pyramid in the centre of the table, were followed by a generous portions of steak and an elegant bouquet of string beans tied with a leek knot. For years, the signature dish was a chocolate sculpture crafted as Fabergé might; his unique eggs designed for the Russian Royal Family. Billy Gallagher, a name synonymous with culinary prowess and perfection, oversaw
the buying and design of the world-class luncheon. I was always amazed by the vast number of chefs that would walk through the hall to take a bow of recognition after the lunch.
The guest speaker seemed to drone on for hours in the hall, and paddles and numbers sounded like the frenetic hum of the stock exchange exacting in frequencyb as temperatures soared beyond 40 degrees. When the orator drew breath there was an exodus to the marquee to book seats for the eagerly awaited fashion show.
A grand marquee was erected to stage the fashion show, which welcomed scantily clad models on an extensive red
carpet. Guests flocked to this spectacle and winemakers feared the auction of their wines would clash with the leggy dames when the sale room would be virtually vacated. The historic Cape Dutch manor house, with its thatch and bees wax furniture polish, textured décor, copper pots, and statuesque flower displays was a welcome refuge from the heat of the April sun. Ideally suited beneath the tall trees with the vineyards and Paarl mountain presenting a glorious backdrop, it painted the perfect Cape picture. Over the years this gracious homestead has housed displays of antiques, brand-name luggage, artworks and jewellery to entertain celebrity guests.