Strauss & Co combined virtual auction exceeds sales during Covid-19 and affirms strong support for fine art collectables and fine wines


Strauss & Co’s live virtual auction kicks off with white-glove wine session, with 500 bidders vying for rare and collectable wines in Strauss & Co’s virtual auction.

Strauss & Co’s first virtual sale of South African and international fine wines, held in full compliance with national lockdown regulations, saw all 115 lots in this Bordeaux-themed sale find buyers. Hosted by online auction platform, the white-glove sale – auction parlance for 100% sales in a session – earned a total of R2.12 million, far surpassing the initial pre-sale high estimate for the collectable wines sold.

“I am very proud of this emphatic result and what it signals for the South African wine industry during this difficult time in our country’s history,” says Strauss & Co chairperson Frank Kilbourn. “Strauss & Co’s partnership with Invaluable enabled our clients to compete effortlessly for lots in real time. The bidding was energetic and simulated the vitality of being in an auction room. While we celebrate our clients’ adoption of this platform, the key thing to emerge from this sale was the robust demand. The sale attracted 533 bidders from over 20 countries, with nearly half of these bidders being new and first-time clients for Strauss & Co.”

The top-ten lots sold included rare wines from France, South Africa and the United States, bearing testimony to the global spread as well as appeal of Bordeaux-influenced winemaking. The themed approach has become embedded in the year-old wine auction, a joint venture between Strauss & Co, wine specialist Roland Peens of Wine Cellar and sommelier Higgo Jacobs.

Another new departure saw this specialist sale incorporated into Strauss & Co’s benchmark general sale of fine art, jewellery, furniture and decorative arts, which is held twice yearly in Cape Town. Due to the volume of lots on offer, the general sale has been spread across two days, with wine launching the sale in a standalone session held a day in advance of the other sessions.

One of the aims of the specialist wine sale has been to establish credible benchmark prices for wine collectors. This requires setting pre-sale estimates that fairly balance the needs of buyers and sellers. The above-estimate results achieved on many lots encouragingly suggests an upward trajectory for South African fine wines as a collectable, this in spite of one of the most challenging economic crises in a century.

Roland Peens of Wine Cellar says: “This could be a real Rubicon moment for the wine industry, as the incredible line-up of wines matched the huge depth of interest. The live-streamed auctioneering by Alastair Meredith on the Invaluable platform worked almost seamlessly and we reached the greatest audience, perhaps ever, for a South African fine wine auction.”

Higgo Jacobs adds: “This is a very gratifying result for our young venture, as well as for the wine industry as a whole. The ground-breaking auction platform allowed us to optimally showcase the stellar collection of fine wines, which were the real stars of this auction. I would like to thank the Strauss & Co auction team for their professional handling of the dynamic bidding.”

“The success of this auction underscores our deep belief in the quality of South Africa’s top wines,” says Strauss & Co’s chairperson Frank Kilbourn. “The solid auction results also reiterated the necessity and feasibility of providing an effective and transparent platform for local and international collectors to trade in these magnificent wines.”

Top selling lots:

The top-selling lot by value in the wine session was a single bottle of a 100-point 1989-vintage Chateau Pétrus. Befitting its status as one of the world’s most prized wines, the Pomerol lot carried a high estimate, which was nonetheless surpassed when it was knocked down for R85 260 (all prices inclusive of buyer’s premium and VAT).

The best-performing South African wine was a 12-bottle lot of the 1995-vintage Meerlust Rubicon, which also sold above estimate for R45 472. In a public talk presented on Zoom in the lead up to the wine sale, Roland Peens discussed the provenance of the Rubicon lot, stating: “The wine has been stored in perfect conditions. It is a great vintage that will age for a long time.”

The sale underscored the collectability of South African reds made in a Bordeaux style. Kanonkop’s acclaimed, long-ageing Bordeaux blend named after the estate’s former owner, Paul Sauer, proved especially popular, attaining four of the top-ten places for the most expensive lots sold. Two lots containing six bottles each of Kanonkop’s 2015-vintage Paul Sauer, which has been scored 100 points by critic Tim Atkin MW, drew especially vigorous bidding. The first lot sold to an online bidder for R34 104, and second lot went to a telephone bidder for R35 241.A number of South African wines sold far in excess of their pre-sale estimates. A six- bottle lot of De Trafford’s rare, powerful and long-aging Cabernet Sauvignon from 2006 fetched R21 078. A lot curated by the Stellenbosch Cabernet Collective that featured a dozen of the best modern vintages for Cabernet Sauvignon in Stellenbosch sold to an online bidder for R30 694.

Other notable performers on the sale included two lots of a half-dozen bottles each of Hartenberg’s limited volume, single-vineyard flagship blend, The Mackenzie, both from 2005, which sold for R31 830 each. Six bottles of a 1980-vintage Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenryck, made by respected cellar master Pierre Marais of the Bergkelder, sold for R14 052. Bordeaux style wines from respected vineyards Delaire Graff, Morgenster, Rustenberg and Warwick also sold above estimate.

New technology:

New technologies and ways of working informed various aspects of the wine sale, from its marketing to the disposal of lots online to remote buyers. Auctioneer Alastair Meredith capably handled the bidding for individual lots from Strauss & Co’s Johannesburg office, where he parsed commission bids and took telephone bids from a core group of staff assisting him. In the main, online bidders won the key lots.

“It is like a disco with all these flashing lights,” remarked Meredith midway through the sale, registering the enthusiasm of bidders in Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Mauritius and the United States, among other countries.

The next wine sale will be an online-only auction and is scheduled to take place from 25 May to 1 June 2020





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