Q&A with Dan Nicholl

by | Feb 15, 2018 | Wineland, News

Dan Nicholl, auctioneer for the Cape Wine Auction. Photo: Corrie de Vries

Dan Nicholl first made his name a household one as host of celebrity talk show The Dan Nicholl Show on SuperSport, which starts a seventh season in March, but now he’s becoming as well known for his online show Dan Really Likes Wine – which may be coming to television this year – and his role as auctioneer and MC for the annual Cape Wine Auction.

The 2018 Cape Wine Auction – sponsored by Nedbank Private Wealth – raised R17.5 million for education in the Cape winelands last weekend and has amassed nearly R73 million in its five years of existence, a fact that Nicholl is extremely proud of.

You have been involved with four of the Cape Wine Auctions. How has it grown year-on-year?

I think initially most people thought that the auction was a nice idea that might turn into a rather pleasant day out with a decent cheque handed over at the end of the day. But trustee Mike Ratcliffe’s winelands dream has developed into so much more. Extraordinary lots, guests from all over the world and some of the finest auction venues anywhere – the Cape Wine Auction has come a very long way in just five years. But there’s still great capacity for further growth and I’m very excited to see what it will look like in another five years.

You are always willing to give your time to MC both the American Express Friday Night Barrel Auction and The Cape Wine Auction on the Saturday, why do you do this?

Aside from the fact that it’s the best event on the annual wine calendar? I do a lot of work with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation as an ambassador, and I’ve seen the impact that the right charity organisation can have on children. The Cape Wine Auction supports a number of organisations that are having exactly that impact on young South Africans in need of a little hope, a little belief. I’ve had a lot of people give me a helping hand through my career so helping out the auction team allows me to pass on a few of the favours I’ve received over the years.

You were initially known for your knowledge of sports; where did the passion for wine and online show Dan Really Likes Wine come from?

Blame Michael Jordaan for this one… I’ve written on food and wine for many years, and discovered the joy of wine in particular while exploring the winelands while at the University of Cape Town; and for the last few years I’ve hosted assorted wine events and dinners. Jordaan attended one of them, thought a television show would be the perfect extension, and pestered me relentlessly until I started Dan Really Likes Wine. It’s grown into a far more popular endeavour than I’d anticipated and I’m hoping to take it to television later this year – all of which gives me even more reason to explore and taste South African wine!

What were you particularly excited about with this year’s auction?

At the very end of the auction I asked for pledges for specific areas of development; one of those was technology for young girls. In under a minute, I had R1.3-million pledged from the audience. Gender inequality is a huge issue, and to see that reaction was enormously uplifting. There are still a lot of very good people out there.

On a personal note, which lot at this year’s auction would you have bid for?

I was lucky enough to be at Old Trafford late last year for the Manchester derby, and in Paris for the end of the Tour de France – two unforgettable experiences. So I’d opt for one I haven’t done: I love France, so either the Hawksmoor lot, with the villa for 12 in Picarroque, or the Rickety Bridge trip to Paris and St. Tropez.

What – in your opinion – is the secret to being a good auctioneer?

Dazzlingly good looking and extremely athletic… but if that doesn’t work out, a good sense of humour, a clear understanding of what you’re selling and as much knowledge of who is in the room as you can gather. If you can get a couple of big spenders haggling over the same lot, you’re on to a winner – you just need to find the right hook. When every cent of the money raised is going to charity, the lots on sale are as eye-catching as those at the Cape Wine Auction, and the room is full of wine-loving philanthropists, you’ve got an excellent platform to raise a significant sum of money for the very special causes involved.

Describe in a few words what both the Friday night auction and the Saturday auction were like for those who were not there.

Friday is very relaxed, a warm-up event for the big one the next day. But it certainly has its own attractions: rare and vintage wine, some unique tasting opportunities and the chance to bid at levels more accessible than those on Saturday. Throw in the brilliant James Stewart making musical magic and the idyllic setting at Tokara and you have a feelgood factor that spills into Saturday and an elegant celebration of wine and charity. Rustenberg was as beautiful a setting as we’ve had for the auction, and the food, the wine and the crowd combined perfectly. Not hard to see why it’s one of my favourite events of the year.

What can The Cape Wine Auction teach other international auctions about philanthropy?

There’s a deeply personal connection between the auction, its trustees and organisers, and the charities and recipients being supported. The auction is about people in the Winelands supporting their own, and that comes through very strongly in the nature of the lots donated, the causes being assisted, and the relationship with those causes, that goes beyond just handing over a cheque. That in turn inspires the generosity we see at the auction, and the much-needed success stories that we hear each year.

Anything else you would like to add?

News headlines, radio bulletins, newspaper front pages – we don’t get a lot of uplifting stories in the daily media assault, so the story of a community coming together have such a striking impact makes a most welcome change. March 1 and 2 are in next year’s diary already – bring on The Cape Wine Auction 2019!

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