Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Melvyn Minnaar on the 2012 Nederburg Auction; "Vilafonté Series M 2005 ... competed for top spot..."

To revitalise custom when age sets in, and tradition treads water or sinks, is tricky. The annual Nederburg Auction, to be 40 years old in  a few years’ time, is certainly a Cape winelands institution. But the last decade or so has been one of starts and stumbles to reinvent the excitement it had for the first quarter of a century. Once the place and event to be invited to – as wine producer, buyer or dazzling socialite – recent years have been ho-hum in all fields: the party, the prices – and plenty of the wines.
All that chopping and changing, and the daft add-ons (fashions shows, music, odd food, whatever) often seemed like ad hoc marketing strategies: panic in the face of the success by the Cape Winemakers Guild young-ones, who got buyers to pay outrageous prices for their wines. As if silly high prices were the be-all and end-all of quality or innovation.
That the wines on offer at the Nederburg were not always the kind of stuff that suited the tradition of prestige didn’t help. (Probably too much producer politics and corporate intervention.) Boring.
Any way, if the cheerful tasting this week of some of the wines in the upcoming September auction is any indication, the Nederburg Auction may have turned the corner – at least as far as wine custom is concerned. On balance, most of the 52 wines offered to media and some trade people were fair game for auction.
Of the Nederburg offerings, none could be questioned. In fact, some of the best wines tasted, were the Nederburg auction specials: the Private Bins and the noble late harvests. This is thanks to cellar master Razvan Macici, who has been looking after the enormous Nederburg portfolio for eleven years.
The line-up of Nederburg wines, made for the auction, is a key factor in the business of the event, and some 27 are on offer this year, including those Private Bins which have historical stature. Judged from the 14 we tasted, Macici’s wines are going to play an important role in the turn-around of the event.
With a track record of ten plus years, his wines can now play the role that they should in the original reason for the auction: to offer wines of age that are truly excellent, with even more maturation potential.
The Nederburg Private Bin R115 (shiraz/cabernet sauvignon) 2000, for example, was one of the finest at the tasting and has plenty of aging ahead, The Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur 2007, beautifully balanced and bright,  promises to be one of the famous of the famous. The sauvignon blanc 2010, under the well-known, if eccentrically-numbered D234 Private Bin mark, may well develop wonderfully as well, and the Private Bin R163 2004 cabernet sauvignon is one to keep and watch.     
Other white stars of the tasting going on auction include sauvignons blanc from Delaire (2009) and Durbanville Hills Biesjes Craal (2008), Rustenberg’s sensual roussanne 2008, and the Stellenrust 45 chenin blanc 2009.
Among the reds, Vilafonté Series M 2005, and the gloriously Burgundian Groot Constantia pinotage 2000 competed for top spot with the mentioned R115. The old Chateau Libertas 1968 was sensational beyond its curiosity value - heaven knows how much more than the reserve price of R3 000 for the single six-bottle case this will fetch at auction.
The latter is really what the Nederburg Auction ought to be all about: heritage, authenticity, elegance and superb winemaking that outlives the present. If decent prices are part of the deal, that’s fine, but not the only or ultimate measure.
Carina Gouws, overall in charge of Distell’s wine business, hinted at this at the tasting, as strategy for the turn-around. So finally, perhaps, the 2012 Nederburg Auction ‘of rare wines’ may well live up to custom. It’s the wines, stupid!

Sunday Times wine-writer Neil Pendock rates Vilafonte 'my best red' at the Nederburg Auction 2012

There are 52 cards in a standard deck and 52 wines in the Nederburg Auction media, chefs and trade tasting in Paarl this morning (below). Is there a message here somewhere?
My best red was the Vilafonte M 2005 blend called “immediately delicious” by tasting host Dave Hughes and my best white was the Oak Valley Chardonnay 2009 with tight lime and tangerine flavours and excellent balance. The pH of 3.11 means it should last longer than me. Was this the wine that won a gold medal as well as a “commended” rating at the International Wine Challenge a couple of years ago? Oops!
Some lovely quotes. From Nederburg cellarmaster Razvan Macici (below) “in my early days I used to swim and now I look like a submarine…”
On the Almenkerk Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Dave noted “I don’t get elderwood [in the tasting note of auctioneerAnthony Barne], but then I don’t know what elderwood is… a lot of wine from Elgin is not as good as the fruit that goes into the winery.”  Clearly not the case with Almenkerk.
Best dessert was the Nederburg S316 Weisser Riesling NLH 2001 with its definite Riesling character overlaid with marmalade and orange peel although the wine to buy for young people is definitely the Edelkeur 2007, “the most awarded wine ever made by Nederburg” according to submarine Macici. To end, a glass of 1929 KWV Port (below, left) and six cases are offered.  Incredible.
From Sunday Times

Michael Fridjhon recommends Vilafonte 'Series M 2005 for the Nederburg Auction 2012

This year’s Nederburg auction, on September 28 and 29, comes at the end of a week of wineland festivities, the (more or less) biannual bash called Cape Wine. This showcase, organised by Wines of South Africa to drum up exports, brings buyers, advisers and wine writers to the Cape in their droves and gives them a feel for South African hospitality and a sense of our wine country.
This is the ideal time for the longest running of our fine-wine auctions to assume its place on centre stage. However, after the preview tasting of more than 50 wines destined for the sale (roughly one third of what is on offer), I’m not sure I understand the logic of the selection.
A panel is delegated to sift the auction wines from a mass of entries from many of the country’s leading cellars. Nederburg, which foots the bill for (or at least a chunk of the cost of) the event and needs to sell its auction range at the sale, apparently submits its wines to this process. You would expect that if there were to be a few affirmative inclusions they would be here — where the big volumes of Nederburg wines come to market.
This was, however, not the impression that emerged from the preview tasting. Most of the Nederburg wines were comfortably in the same bracket as the samples from the smaller, independent wineries. Instead, it was the very unevenness of the classes that left many tasters a little confused about how the selection had been put together.
The big parcel of the Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc — the Private Bin D234 2010 — was the best of the six Sauvignons at the tasting. It just pipped the Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2009, and looked good in the company of benchmarks such as the Diemersdal Eight Rows. However, it was streets ahead of Almenkerk’s 2009, which showed reduced eggy notes and a sugar level (6.9g/l) vastly too sweet for the category.
With the Chardonnays, there was a similarly confusing pattern in the six samples at the preview. The Nederburg parcel D270 2009 was not the best (pole position here went to Oak Valley’s 2009), but it was decent enough. However, I’ve tasted better Chardonnays from the Nederburg cellar and many better current release Cape Chardonnays.
The Delheim Sur Lie 2009 was pretty ordinary; the Spier Private Collection 2007 palpably sweet; and the geriatric Jordan Nine Yards 2007 visibly on its deathbed.
There was an excellent Chenin — the Stellenrust "45" 2009 — and the usual brilliant array of dessert wines, unfortified and fortified. The Nederburg Edelkeur 2007, the Eminence 2001, an unbelievable 1977 Edelkeur and the extraordinary KWV Port 1929 (the highest-scoring wine at this year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show) are all there with a message in the bottle for the foreign visitors at Cape Wine.
Then came the red wines, and while there were several impressive samples in the line-up, more of a mixed bag would be difficult to imagine. A really good Plaisir de Merle Malbec 2007; an evanescent but finely detailed Chateau Libertas 1968; very good Kanonkop (1994) and Thelema (2004) Cabernets; and some pretty decent Shirazes — most notably Hartenberg The Stork 2006 and La Motte 2004 — all vi ed for my attention. In the world of blends, the Vilafonte Series M 2005 and the Rupert & Rothschild Baron Edmond 2001 are both worth tracking down. But there are also several wines to avoid: the Nederburg Bin R104 Petit Verdot 2001 was flat, tired, porty and well past its sell-by date. The Perdeberg Rex Equus 2007, the Auction Crossing Shiraz Viognier 2005 and the Nederburg R115 2000 did nothing to lift the average. In short, judging from the preview, this year’s auction may appeal more to the gambler than the wine collector: shop with care or buyer beware.