Rare 19th century SA wine meant for Napoleon fetches R420 000 at auction

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Top buyers on the day were private buyers.
Top buyers on the day were private buyers.
  • The Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction took place at the Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch recently.
  • A rare bottle of Grand Constance 1821 reached a record-breaking R420 000.
  • At the end of the auction the unaudited total results stood at R2 219 200.

A rare bottle of Grand Constance 1821 reached a record-breaking R420 000 at the recent Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction.

The price was unaudited and excluding VAT.

The bottle is one of roughly twelve known to still exist globally, from an allocation originally destined for the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. It was acquired by a UK-based client of auction house Christie's.

The auction was held in association with Christie's and live-streamed from the Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch.

The wines on auction included bottles meticulously preserved since the 1960s, wines produced under South Africa's Old Vine Project, and the highest quality wines from some of the country's most successful vintages – 2009 and 2015. It was the first time the auction took place as a hybrid event, meaning bidders from across the world could place their bids in person or online.

At the end of the auction the unaudited total results stood at R2 219 200. 

"Following a year that has impacted the South African wine industry like no other, the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction became a beacon of resilience, showcasing the tenacious spirit of the country's wine makers – and the massive favour they carry with wine enthusiasts globally," Cape Fine Rare Wine Auction director Niël Groenewald commented in a statement.

"What an incredible experience to honour the quality of South Africa's wines at a time when the industry desperately needs it. It has never been more important to shine a light on the spirit of South Africa’s wines, and the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction did exactly that."

Mike Ratcliffe, chair of Stellenbosch Wine Routes, said the auction was a crucial industry event nurturing a fertile environment for the rise of SA fine wines.

The unaudited results showed that just under 2 140 litres of wine were sold, with an auction rand per bottle of R778 on average for 750ml – an 18% increase against 2019's R660. The average price per bottle of white wine was R490 for a 750 ml bottle.

The best white wine performers were DeMorgenzon Reserve Chardonnay 2016, a David & Nadia Hoë-Steen Mixed Case and DeMorgenzon Divas 2017. For red wines the Cabernet Collective 2009 mixed case of 12 landed the gavel at R21 500. The average price per bottle for red wines was R804. 

As for fortified wine, the highest bid received was for Monis Vintage Tawny Port 1990 at R1 000 per bottle. The average for fortified wines was R662 per bottle. In the noble late harvest or sweet wines category, the highest bid received was for the Nederburg Edelkeur 1999. The average price obtained on sweet wines was R1 812 per bottle - not factoring in the Grand Constance 1821.

Top buyers on the day were private buyers. This is in line with global statistics indicating the positive impact virtual auctions have on the fine wine market, due to the ability to amplify reach from regional to global audiences. This year, 82% of all sales by value went to South African buyers.

Since its inception in 1975, the auction has supported philanthropic initiatives in the Cape winelands through its network of bidders and patrons. This year, more than R130 000 was raised for the Pinotage Youth Academy, focused on preparing and developing youth for meaningful employment in the wine sector and related industries.

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