I’m incredibly humbled and honored by the invitation. And I’m incredibly fired up about visiting South Africa’s wine country. I’ll be leaving next Saturday, and spending a full week in South Africa.
Nederburg can trace its history to 1791, when Phillipus Wolvaart, a German immigrant, was given 121 acres in the Paarl valley. He was producing wines within 20 years.
In 1937, the estate started taking wine seriously. That year, Nederburg was purchased by another German immigrant — Johann Georg Graue — who decided to rip up the vineyard and focus on improved plant material and healthy grapes. Years later, his son Arnold took the estate’s winemaking to the next level. Indeed, Arnold pioneered cold fermentation in South Africa.
In 1969, the cellarmaster at Nederburg — Günter Brözel — wanted to start making a dessert wine. Also a German immigrant, Günter loved Trockenbeerenauslese. And he was fond of Tokaji and Sauternes. So when he found some local vineyards susceptible to noble rot, he produced his first ultra sweet wine — and called it Edelkeur.
Unfortunatey, it was illegal.
At the time, South Africa’s wine regulations didn’t permit the production of wines with sugar content above 20 grams per liter. So Nederburg couldn’t sell Edelkeur.
The company convinced South Africa’s authorities to change the laws — but the “solution” didn’t exactly open up the market. Worried that such a limited-production wine could result in market distortions, authorities decided that the fairest method of distribution for the “special” wine would be an auction, open exclusively to the trade. That auction — originally designed for Edelkeur — became the Nederburg Auction. It was first held in 1975.
In the 37 years since, the Nederburg Auction has become one of world’s most important wine events.
The event also raises a sizeable amount for charity, as it ends with a Charity Auction. This year, the recipients are the Goedegedacht Trust, the Pebbles Project Trust and World Vision SA in Mbekweni. Thanks to the generous support of Freemark Abbey, I’ll be bringing two bottles for this portion of the event.