Sales fell at the 38th Nederburg wine auction in South Africa as British and German buyers stayed away, with organizers blaming a tough economic climate and record-high prices in recent years.
Total sales reached 4.69 million rand ($565,000) which represents the second-lowest total in the past 15 years. In 2011, the prestigious auction raised more than six millon rand ($720,000).
Important German and British buyers, including mail order company Direct Wines, did not attend this year. “The large retail groups are under pressure. Cash is becoming a huge issue,” said Jan an Scannell, managing director of Nederburg's parent company, Distell. There was also speculation that last week's three-day Cape Wine fair could have led to buyer fatigue.
However, Anthony Barnes MW of Bonhams, the event's auctioneer for the third consecutive year, offered another theory: “I think everyone is waiting for the eurozone to implode. I think it makes buyers nervous, as they don't want to get caught with a lot of stock,” he commented.
Auction manager Dalene Steyn admitted that trade buyers may have been put off by rising prices at recent sales, making the wines difficult to sell on to their customers. “With the prices increasing for the past two years in a row it becomes very difficult for buyers to buy and sell wine. There was a perception that if the prices increased again, it would be impossible for them to participate,” she said.
The average price per case fell to 1,663 Rand ($200) from last year's 1,985 ($238). However, the fall in sales and lower prices were good news for those buyers who have been priced out of the market in previous years.
The auction also registered new interest from Taiwan, with a spend of 186,000 Rand ($22,370), while Romanian buyers, attending for the first time, paid out more than 93,000 Rand ($11,180). Interest from Namibia and Kenya also increased significantly. In total, 40 percent of the wines on offer went to international buyers.
The top red wine price was paid for a set of 12 vintages (spanning 1959-1970) of Chateau Libertas. It sold for 16,000 rand ($1,924), equivalent to 1,333 rand ($156) per bottle. Two rare Lanzerac wines from the Distell Tabernacle were in second place, with six-bottle cases of the 1964 Lanzerac Cabernet selling for 7,200 rand ($865) and a 1964 Pinotage for 6,200 ($745).
The top price paid for a dry white wine was 650 rand ($78) per magnum of 2003 De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay. The 2007 Uva Mira Single Vineyard Chardonnay, the 2004 De Wetshof D’Honneur Chardonnay, and the 2007 Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay also achieved notable prices.
The highest price paid for a noble late harvest wine was 5,000 rand ($600) for a dozen 375-ml bottles of 1979 Nederburg Edelkeur. A rare 1929 KWV Reserve Port fetched a "remarkable" 8,200 rand ($986) per bottle.
The charity section of the auction included a bottle of Lomelino Boal Madeira dating back to 1825, donated by auctioneer Anthony Barnes, which was sold to local winemaker Hempies du Toit for 20,000 rand ($2,405). A 12-bottle vertical of Kanonkop Pinotage raised 18,000 Rand ($2,165) for good causes.