It was only a matter of time before wine auctions go online, like everything else. This year’s Cape Auction in South Africa may not be the first to try this, but they’ve gone virtual in a big way, with a month of online bidding preceding their auction February 13-14 in Stellenbosch.
Online bidding began today, and is aimed at the U.S. market. Big spenders, of course, as most auctions are. And this isn’t eBay, where a package shows up in the mail a few days after your successful bid. For most of these lots, you’d better be planning a trip to South Africa’s wine country. But if you are, and if you have deep pockets, this would be a great way to jazz up that trip.
Most of the lots include private tours, dinners, spa treatments and luxury lodging, including at Sir Richard Branson’s Mont Rochelle estate. The Môreson & Le Quartier Français lot includes a barrel of premium chardonnay and a weekend of private partying, including accommodations for 42 people. The Warwick Estate lot includes “an incredible summer party for 100 friends.” (These South Africans know how to have a good time!) If you’re not heading to South Africa, one lot includes a Loire Valley trip, and another includes grouse shooting in England.
Most lots include wine, of course. And lots of it. If I had the money and the cellar space I’d be tempted by the Swartland Revolution lot, which includes Balthazars (12 liters, or 16 regular bottles) from some of Swartland’s hottest producers: A.A. Badenhorst, Sadie Family Wines, Porseleinberg, and Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. I would need those 100 friends to help drink those! These names featured prominently when I wrote about the excitement in South Africa’s wines last fall. (The wines would be delivered through an importer, such as Broadbent Selections, which imports A.A. Badenhorst, Sadie Family, and Warwick Wine Estate to the U.S.)
The auction hopes to raise more than $1 million this year, according to Mike Ratcliffe, managing director of Warwick and Vilafonté wineries. Proceeds support educational charities in South Africa’s wine lands.
In an email, Ratcliffe even referred to the auction by its Twitter handle #CWA2015, showing the importance of social media and the online bidding. About half the people who attended the auction last year came from outside South Africa, many from the United States, so the organizers decided to try to attract more “U.S. punters,” he said. “Bill Harlan, Charles Banks, Garen & Shari Staglin, Bartholomew Broadbent, André Shearer & Zelma Long amongst many others are representing the USA in our efforts,” he wrote.
Like most auctions, I’ll be watching from the sidelines. But if you have trouble filling out your 100-person guest list, give me a call.