The colourful Charlie Foley (29) takes up the gavel for the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction – only the fifth auctioneer to do so since the auction’s establishment 45 years ago.
Founded as the Nederburg Auction in 1975, the auction’s very first auctioneer, Patrick Grubb (1975 to 2005), holds a Guinness Book of Records record for hosting an auction for 31 consecutive years.
October marks the time of year South African winemakers showcase some of their best work on the auction block. The Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction considered similar in stature to famous auctions such as Hospices de Beaune in France and Kloster Eberbach in Germany, will pay homage to SA’s fine wines in an exciting new format at the Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch on 18 and 19 October.
In total, 124 wines from 64 of South Africa’s best producers are featured in this year’s auction catalogue, and bidding will be conducted by the celebrated auction house, Christie’s – a partner to the auction since 2017.
Foley brings extensive wine knowledge and a passion for SA’s wines to the bidding hall. This vibrant auctioneer shares his insights and thrills of buying wine at an auction:
What is the perception of South Africa’s wines in international circles?
I think South Africa is in a great place, wine-wise. It’s where the Old World meets the New World; with ripeness and complexity twirling around one other in your glass. There is so much diversity, from chewy Cabernets to complex Chenins, to sublime Sauvignons, The Rainbow Nation has it all. The wines of the Cape should be splashed into glasses the world over and shared around to spread the message: sunshine and smiling winemakers make stunning wines.
Have you seen an increase in wine auctions internationally? What does this trend tell you?
The wine auction market is huge and growing every year. At Christie’s, it is an exciting hook. People who have not dealt with Christie’s before, often come to us through a wine purchase or a wine tasting and then get a taste for collecting and end up with a Picasso or a Monet! Across the world, there is a growing trend for lifestyle events – sharing food and wine in a restaurant is one of the only things you cannot do on the internet now, and this sense of the ‘real’ resonates. People want to be entertained, and wine is the most entertaining liquid going!
What makes wine auctions intriguing?
Diversity. You can come away beaming with a collection of the most intriguing wines on the planet. Sitting in the auction room, clutching your paddle is your chance to think of the steak sauces you will match your Syrah with, the puddings you will plump for your Port, the friends you will invite to share your Frappato or the cheese you will munch with your Cap Classique.
Would you advise people to buy wine at an auction? And why?
Yes, yes and yes. It’s the most theatrical way to buy wine and the best possible way to get friendly with the most knowledgeable and entertaining wine lovers. You will have the opportunity to taste, try and buy a wealth of diverse wines, and you will learn so much in the process.
Any tips for first-time auction goers?
If you have the chance to make friends with the auctioneer, do it! They will love a familiar face and some banter. Know which lots you would kill for and which you would rather die if you missed out on. Go for it. You may never see them again, and you only live once.
How do wine auctions compare to other auctions, for example, art auctions?
An auction is an event, and the art departments have long understood the need to make a piece of theatre. The wine sales have begun to reflect this. From the dramatic gavel hammer of Christie’s $450 million Da Vinci last year to the mammoth barrel sale at Beaune in November every year, Christie’s draws in people who love the lots on offer. We entertain and intrigue them. These people become the proud new owners of the fantastic pieces on offer.