Johannesburg

6 of South Africa's most sought-after wines

06 Oct 2021
After many years in the shadows of other globally more well-recognised New World wine regions, South Africa is finally coming into its own. An appreciation for South African fine wine is steadily growing both locally and internationally and while this country certainly does produce scores of wonderfully drinkable entry-level wines, it is the rare vintages, small-batch blends, ancient vineyards and luxurious new labels that are courting attention.

Ahead of Strauss & Co Fine Wines' South African wine auction coming up on Sunday October 10, here's a look at six of most rare and sought-after wines, and what makes them so special. 

Grand Constance and Vin de Constance – among the priciest wines ever sold


In the 17th and 18th Centuries Vin de Constance was one of the most distinguished wines in the world. Adored by kings and queens including France's Marie Antoinette who filled her cellar at Versailles with it, 'Vin du Cap Constance' was also enjoyed by America's founding fathers John Adams and George Washington. Napoleon Bonaparte spent his last years of exile on St Helena drowning his sorrows in it and French poet Charles Baudelaire declared both opium and his lover's kiss equal to the 'finest Constantia wine'. In the mid-19th Century the Cape's original Vin de Constance vineyards were decimated by a combination of exorbitant colonial tariffs and crop plagues and suddenly this sweet wine disappeared from the world. The iconic Vin de Constance eventually remerged in the 1980s under a revival led by the Klein Constantia estate in Cape Town. On Sept 14, 2021 an exceptionally rare Grand Constance bottle from 1821 was sold at auction by Strauss & Co, fetching a staggering R967,300 making it among the most expensive South African wines ever sold. The first commercial vintage of the Klein Constantia Vin de Constance from 1987 sold for R34,140.

Vintage Chateau Libertas – SA's oldest red blend

Believed to be South Africa’s oldest red blend, this label was established by Dr William Charles Winshaw in 1932 as a lightly wooded dry red blend of Cinsaut, Cabernet Sauvignon and later Pinotage. Recent vintages haven't garnered wild excitement, although the rare bottles of mid-century vintages are among the most covetable in South Africa. Especially in demand are the 1940, 1957 and 1961 vintages. In 2018 London-based wine merchant and critic Greg Sherwood dubbed a bottle of the 1957 Chateau Libertas "the most distinguished stately gentleman of wines I have ever encountered". In September 2021, a bottle of the 1957 from the Winshaw family cellar (thought to be one of the last in existence) sold at Strauss & Co auction for R 91,040, more than five times the original estimate. 

Alheit Vineyards's Cartology, Radio Lazarus and Magnetic North

 

Cape winemakers Chris and Suzanne Alheit set the wine world on fire with their maiden 2011 Cartology white blend receiving 96 points from the prestigious Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Harnessing the best old vineyards from across the Cape, the Cartology offered a textured old-vine Chenin Blanc and Semillon blend with startling purity and depth. They continued their dedication to producing heritage wines with other super rare creations including the Radio Lazarus and launched in 2013 Magnetic North, a single-origin Chenin Blanc wine considered to be one of South Africa's best. 

Sadie Family Wines' Columella, Skurfberg and Mev Kirsten

 

Led by revered South African winemaker Eben Sadie, Sadie Family Wines have been instrumental in helping put the Swartland region on the global map, kickstarting a local fine wine revolution along the way. The long-ageing Columella is often regarded as South Africa’s best red and earlier vintages are especially sought-after. The Mev Kirsten from Sadie's old vine single vineyard series, first released in 2009 and produced from a century-old Stellenbosch vineyard, now counts as one of South Africa's rarest white wines. Meanwhile, Sadie's Skurfberg received legend status when it scored a perfect 100 points from Tim Atkin in 2020. 

Vilafonté's M and C series

 

Vilafonté is a high-profile collaboration between the well-known American winemaking team of Zelma Long and Phil Freese and South Africa's Mike Ratcliffe. Based on the Paarl side of the Simonsberg mountain, it was founded in 1996 and their first release was the stellar 2003 vintage. Combining meticulous viticulture and modern cellar practices, Vilafonté has long sat at the cutting-edge of South African fine wine and is considered to be this country's most luxurious red wine brand. Much like with a Mercedes, Vilafonté's flagship wines come under alphabetised series. The Merlot and Malbec dominated Series M offers spice and flair while the Cabernet Sauvignon-based Series C is serious and more structured. Two decades on from their launch, both the C and M series are the highest scoring Bordeaux-style reds in South African wines today. 

Meerlust's Rubicon

The Meerlust Estate has been the pride of the Myburgh family since 1756 and is now led under the guidance of 8th generation owner Hannes Myburgh. His father Nico created the iconic Rubicon in 1980, inspired by the similar cooling sea breezes and soil structure that has made Bordeaux wines such a success in France. A Bordeaux-style blend, the launch of the Rubicon was a ground-breaking event that helped change how South Africans thought about red wine. The Rubicon continues to be one of Meerlust's flagship wines and certain vintages hold special cache among collectors, especially the award-winning 2009 Rubicon and the 2001 which won a Gold Medal at the Basel Wine Fair.

HOW TO BID IN STRAUSS FINE WINES ONLINE AUCTIONS

Strauss & Co's Alheit Vineyards | Sadie Family Wines | Vilafonté live virtual auction takes place on Sunday Oct 10 from 10:00. The auction is hosted 'live' (virtually) in Cape Town with Strauss & Co's auctioneers on the podium, streamed live via Strauss & Co’s website in real-time.

To join in the bidding online, first create an account by registering on the Strauss & Co website. Sign in and select 'enter auction' which will open the bidding console on your computer with a live feed of the auctioneer. Once you submit a bid, your number will appear on the screen followed by any competing bidding numbers until the auctioneer closes the lot. Browse the auction and register to bid online here.

In addition to bidding live online, you can also still submit phone bids with Strauss & Co's team manning the phones in the room, or submit a 'commission' bid before detailing the ceiling amount for which you would like to bid for a lot (you will 'win' your bid if no other bidders exceed your pre-set limit).

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