It’s auction season, with Nederburg this weekend and the Cape Winemakers’ Guild sale in three weeks. Both are established events on the industry calendar, with enough longevity between them that it’s no longer realistic to think of Nederburg as the "institution" and the Guild auction as the parvenu. Both have had to evolve — a measure of the market becoming more sophisticated. In its first decade, the prestige of the Nederburg sale powered competition between bidders and set pricing that, taking inflation into account, achieved levels that have probably not been repeated. As punters became more astute, they learned to cherry-pick, leaving the commercial lots for liquor chains and re-distributors, focusing instead on parcels of vinous gems or ancient rarities. About 10 years ago, Nederburg began losing its cachet, with more (not always wonderful) wine on offer than demand. Prices fell, image was tarnished and a rethink was required. The past few years have revealed the benefits of th...

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