Established in 1975 to highlight rare and fine South African wines, the Nederburg Auction celebrated its 38th annual event last weekend on September 28 and 29. At the historic Nederburg farm in South Africa, a total of 158 wines from 76 producers gathered under the gavel of auctioneer Anthony Barne, MW, of London’s auction house Bonhams.
The highest bid of the event went to a single bottle of KWV’s 1929 Reserve Port, which sold for $986. Total auction sales closed at $565,000, down from last year’s $720,000. The dismal economic climate is said to be the reason for this downturn. But despite the decrease, local consumers are likely to benefit, as 60% of sales went to South African buyers.
If the cold, wet weather and low bidding put a damper on the spirits of the nearly 700 South African and international guests, you couldn’t tell. Guest speaker Mike Veseth—a professor of International Political Economy at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, editor of The Wine Economist blog and author of the best selling book Wine Wars: The Curse of the Blue Nun, The Miracle of Two Buck Chuck and the Revenge of the Terroirists (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011)—had the crowd cheering after delivering what was widely considered to be one of the best keynote speeches in the auction’s history.
Veseth outlined the problems South African wines face in the United States and stressed that if producers take advantage of the right opportunites, they could win what he calls the “Wine Wars.” He cited examples, like the German wine brand Blue Nun, which started as a small, quality brand that grew so popular that it couldn’t maintain quality, as a model not to be followed. Two Buck Chuck, on the other hand, Veseth said, created and sustained a positive, high-quality reputation—something the South African wine industry could learn from.
Veseth also lectured about South Africa’s need to target millenials in an effort to spread the word of South Africa’s diverse terroirs because they are eager to try new wines and eschew conventional wisdom, and who respond positively to social media outlets.
“One possible key to this terroirist strategy—and this is my own crazy idea—is the braai,” said Veseth, referring to National Braai (or barbecue) Day, a September 24 celebration dedicated to enjoying South African barbecue and reinenforcing the notions of generosity and hospitality. “If South African wines are seen as an extension of that warmth and engagement, they might well strike a sympatheric chord among American wine enthusisasts.”