Nederburg: Next Steps


Jan Scannell, Distell CEO and saviour of the Nederburg Auction after prices collapsed precipitously five years ago, has completed his rescue job and the Auction returned to rude health yesterday with prices at an all time high. I started to bend the ear of Piet Beyers (presumptuously perhaps) on what Nederburg Needs to do Next over post lunch coffee (no brandy). Piet, smartest director in the Distell boma, is consiglierie to the owner, Johann Rupert , who chose a round of golf over the Auction in spite of golf balls as table decorations – do I detect the delicate signature of Aleit Swanepoel here (see below)? But then Johann is on sabbatical.

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My tips were interrupted by the noisy process of clearing away tables at 5pm. Whatever happened to Auction parties? The after-party was transferred to Preston Haskell‘s Dombeya palace on the Helderburg where yours truly made further acquaintance with a La Mission Haut Brion 1967, the finest red of the weekend if you discount the amazing Haskell Syrahs and red blends, as many label drinkers and leggy luvvies (whose parents were perhaps born in 1967) did. More fool them.

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My ten tips for Piet would be to ask Distell chair David Nurek to invite Preston to serve on the Distell board because its clear the SA government stance on Syria in St. Petersburg will drive us further into BRICS. Russia is already #3 export destination for SA wine with shipments quintupling to 53 million litres. And besides, Preston – who lives in Moscow – organizes the best parties. Period. My other additions to the Distell board are shown above. From left to right

Wendy Appelbaum: the only business mogul to realize last year’s farm labourer riots were caused by rapacious payday lenders and micro-financiers, a curse on SA society she is quietly trying to neutralize;

Michael Jordaan: about to become unemployed FNB CEO, will walk el Camino de Santiago next week, a pilgrimage that should be compulsory for all bankers to give them a chance to ponder their destruction of the world economy;

Rose Jordaan: the most attractive face of Stellenbosch terroir that is renounced by some wine identities who should know better – especially after US blogger Joe Roberts warned against the leading US brand Bare Foot that lists neither cultivar nor country (there are four); next weekend’s Checkers Battle of die Berge at Muratie, the wine estate of the late SFW visionary Ronnie Melck, will write an exciting new terroir chapter in the story of SA wine and how fitting if some old SFW brands feature in a terroir selection at Checkers;

Hylton Appelbaum who invokes Ferrari force majeure to refuse to park a sex toy down a muddy path. What kind of celebrity event is this without valet parking (tip 2)? Stellenbosch students would pay big money to park Hylton’s wheels and besides, he was one of the few celebs who wore red, the colours of Nederburg, that should be included in the dress code (tip 3). It sure worked for cellar master Razvan Macici who downgraded to red Calvin Kleins for day two of the Auction after his red rods of Friday saw the take punch through R3 million.

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My remaining tips for Nedeburg are:

4. Invite Ratan Tata to open the Auction next year. Incoming CEO Richard Rushton was SA Breweries CEO in India and India is a kola nut SA wine has yet to crack in spite of the huge ex-pat Indian community in KZN, Yegas Naidoo and Mahatma Gandhi;

5. Live link to the Taj in Mumbai for auction bids from India’s 55 billionaires;

6. Team up with Whitey Basson and open upmarket champagne, wine and brandy boutiques in the 600-800 Checkers stores Whitey will open in Nigeria. If Whitey can sell so much French fizz, LVMH want to drop the Chandon and call their leading bubbly brand Moët & Checkers, having Africa’s retailer as partner to Africa’s Winery is not a bad call; The R5.5 billion profit from Checkers last month confirm that he must be doing something right;

7. Launch a terroir single vineyard Nederburg Semillion dessert wine in the East at R1000 a 750ml bottle and aim to be the Yquem of Africa; SA sweet wines are on a roll and it’s crazy to leave the top tier to Klein Constantia and their Vin de Constance by default; $20 botrytis Chenin simply cannot reach the G spot of Preston’s leggy luvvies.

8. Bottle special editions of Nederburg solera brandy for the Auction and invite Uitkyk, Van Ryn, KWV and Oude Molen to do the same. The sticker “sold at the Nederburg Auction 2014” will do for brandy what mis en cave did for NV Champagne – give a vintage declaration for free and scattering celebrity Auction fairy dust should drive sales. The Grande Roche and Lighthouse in Paarl are good places to start;

9. Launch an affirmative action campaign to preferentially select Pinotage for the Auction: the cultivar needs bottle age as a tasting of the few on offer this year unarguably showed and where else but at the Nederburg Auction can SA restaurateurs buy mature Pinotage?

10. Embrace the World Design Capital 2014 project next year which coincides with the 40th Auction. Roll out next year’s Auction offerings at the beginning of the year and have monthly themed tastings for tourists and business visitors at locations in Cape Town, the design capital. In 2014, Nederburg should become a year long design showcase for SA wine and buyers should be signed up at every opportunity. MasterChefSA is not enough.