The Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction catalogue: SA’s top wine judges weigh in

by | Mar 10, 2021 | Article

One of South Africa’s most prestigious wine events, the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction has announced the line-up of outstanding wines that will be auctioned at the annual event on 22 May 2021This year’s event comes at a crucial moment for the local wine industry, which, though resilient, is still battling the ongoing effects various lockdowns has had on the industry, and the country at large.

However, this stark reality has directed a global spotlight on South African wine producers, with a groundswell of support gathering pace worldwide. This, combined with a growing confidence in the investment returns offered by South African wine, makes the 2021 Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction more relevant than ever.

The prestigious line-up of wines that will go under the hammer on 22 May can be viewed here.

SA wines are smart investments

At the heart of the Auction is the catalogue of sought-after investment wines going under the hammer. Selecting those wines is a painstaking process conducted in two stages by a panel of four expert judges: Michael Fridjhon, Cathy van Zyl MW, François Rautenbach and Joseph Dhafana.

Wines submitted by producers for auction are first evaluated ‘sighted’, allowing the judging panel to appraise the quality of the vintage against the cellar’s reputation, perceived strengths, and the brand’s desirability amongst connoisseurs of fine wine.

“The Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction is about investment wines, so first and foremost there needs to be sufficient recognition for that brand in the market,” explains Michael Fridjhon, a highly regarded international wine judge and one of South Africa’s leading wine commentators.

“We also look for wines that have the right track record, whether it’s producers that are sought-after for their iconic status, or particularly good vintages that people want to add to their cellar,” notes Cathy Van Zyl, a Master of Wine who brings exhaustive local and global experience to the judging panel.

Along with a guarantee of provenance – all auction wines are sourced directly from the producer’s cellar or vinoteque – the Auction offers unparalleled opportunities to access rare vintages long since sold out on the retail shelf, as well as ‘unicorn’ wines – rare once-off releases, tiny volumes and wines only rarely made available to the public by allocation.

For the first time this year’s Auction will follow a ‘hybrid’ format allowing both online and in-person bidding, open the scope of wines to a global audience and offering international buyers unique access to a remarkable catalogue of fine wines.

This all-star judging panel spoke to WineLand Media about the level of wine quality on offer at the Auction as well as the value associated with an esteemed event like this. Watch the video:


Accessible platform

“The Auction is a very effective tool to open up the market in fine South African wine, and the smaller volumes make it extremely accessible for private buyers,” adds François Rautenbach who, as general manager of Singita Premier Wine Direct, brings valuable insights into the palate and preferences of international wine connoisseurs.  And there is certainly enormous interest in investment-quality South African wine both at home and abroad.

“There’s real excitement around what’s happening with the South African wine industry,” says Rautenbach. “There’s a real consistency to the calibre, quality and thoughtfulness of the winemaking, and as a result the wines are definitely seen as worthy of investment.”

 Only the best for Auction catalogue

Those wines that display the right combination of quality, cachet and track record are advanced to the second stage of selection, a rigorous blind tasting.

“Acidity and structure? How does the wine hold itself in the glass? How is the longevity? Is it going to go five years? Ten years? Further than that? We take all of this into account, and I’m confident that the wines chosen by the judges are true examples of the best that South African wine has to offer,” says Joseph Dhafana, a wine judge and sommelier at Cape Town’s award-winning fine-dining destination La Colombe.

While detail in bouquet and palate are important, the crucial element is “a certain savoury character,” notes Rautenbach. “From an international perspective that’s a key component. But freshness is also critical. You still want vibrancy in the wine. Is there energy at the heart of the wine? Is it still alive?”

While highlighting the importance of quality – “always balance on the palate, and length on the palate” – Van Zyl also looks for “a certain South African thumbprint, the South African interpretation of well-known international varieties,” when evaluating a wine for inclusion at this iconic South African auction.

And with many wines being purchased for extended cellar maturation and investment, the judges equally pay careful attention to the delicate balance between youthful energy and the tertiary characters of maturity. “The wines on auction have to be drinkable from the moment they land in the consumer’s cellar, but they should have an opportunity to move up on the plateau,” says Fridjhon.

It’s a rigorous process, but a necessary one, affording bidders at the 2021 Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction the assurance that each and every wine going under the hammer is a reflection of South Africa’s growing stature as a producer of world-class investment-quality wines.

Register as bidder and private buyer now

Founded with the single goal to showcase South Africa’s finest and rarest wines, the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction catalogue will be a reminder of the strength and quality of South Africa’s wines.

Wine collectors who would like to bid and participate as a buyer at the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction can register here.


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