Can Wine Change the World? Celebrating the 2015 Cape Wine Auction

Can wine change the world — make it a better place to live? It’s a quite a challenge (the world is a big place), but wine certainly can contribute to the task and the 2015 Cape Wine Auction is part of that story. Read on!

Auctions: Not Just About the Wine

How can a wine auction help change the world? There are several types of wine auctions and while it is generally wine that is bought and sold the wine itself isn’t always the point.

The big auction houses feature multi-day sales of rare wines and specialized collections, for example, where millions of dollars can change hands over a few lots of treasured vintages. The wine is the focus: sometimes to drink, sometimes to hold and resell and sometimes as conspicuous non-consumption collections.

Then there are very specialized auctions, like the Nederburg Auction in South Africa (I was the keynote speaker at the 2012 event). This auction is more for trade than investors of collectors. It was originally conceived as a way to make older and rarer vintages of the best South African wines available to restaurants and retailers so that consumers would have an opportunity to try these great products at their peak. There is an associated charity auction that raises substantial money for local youth programs, but the focus is on the industry and projecting South Africa’s topo quality brand at home and abroad.

Finally there are auctions where the charity element is front and center and where the packages on offer are not just wines but also wine-food-travel-adventure combinations that are meant to leverage wine’s central role to both broaden interest and frankly to increase the amount that the charities receive. The Auction Napa Valley, for example has raised more than $130 million since 1981 for community projects, including $10 million last year alone for local earthquake disaster relief. It is a model of how wine can contribute to social change.

Wine may be just a beverage to many and the wine industry just a business, but wine’s ability to bring people together and to focus their attention on the collective welfare is really inspiring and it is the reason that it is not ridiculous to think that wine (with a little help from its friends) can change the world.

The Cape Wine Auction

The AfrAsia Bank Cape Wine Auction, which will be held in South Africa on February 13-14, 2015, is not yet at the level of the Napa event in terms of dollars and cents, but it is off to a good start and has identified a worthy set of local non-profits to support including the Pebbles Project. The inaugural 2014 auction raised about seven million Rand (about $600,000) for charity and the 2015 event aims to exceed that amount by a good deal. The auction packages are fantastic — click here to view the catalogue of wines and experiences that are available.

The organizers seek to broaden the audience this time around by inviting more on-line bidding and by encouraging wine enthusiasts to schedule a visit to the Cape Winelands to attend the auction in person. Not everyone has the time and resources to do this, of course, but if you do it’s an invitation that is hard to resist. February is summer in South Africa and the weather is ideal.

Add to this the weakness of the South African currency, which now trades at a bit over 11 Rand per Dollar, making both an on-line bid and a tourist visit more affordable (it was about 8 Rand per dollar for me in 2012). Seriously, South Africa is a bargain right now if you hold dollars, pounds or euro.

Sue and I visited South Africa in January and it was one of the best wine tourist experiences of our lives — I even wrote a column speculating that the Cape just might be the best wine tourist destination on earth.  This appeal plus the obvious satisfaction that comes from helping the charities that the auction supports are good reasons to look into this opportunity.

Kudos to the many wineries and their partners who have collaborated to create the auction lots. Congratulations to Mike Ratcliffe and his team for the success of the 2014 auction and the great potential that the 2015 event displays. I hope the Cape Wine Auction gives the Napa folks a run for their money — that kind of race to the top can only benefit both the wine industries and the social initiatives that they support. Cheers!

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Here are the charities that the Cape Wine Auction supports.

The Pebbles Project
Mad Charity™
The Click Foundation
Community Keepers
Pinotage Youth Development Academy
Endurocad SA Endurance Academy
Hope Through Action Foundation
The Sustainability Institute
The CWG Protégé Program
The Anna Foundation

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Where will I be during the Cape Wine Auction? Not, there, alas. In fact, I’ll be about as far away as possible from South Africa — in Alaska, doing events to support  the World Affairs Council groups there. More about that in a future column.

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