2 minute read
29 Aug 2014
12:00 pm

Raising the gavel again

Henré Hablutzel, seasoned auctioneer of the annual Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction, has seen the auction grow in stature from a niche event to the quintessential showcase of South African wine achievement.

Picture: Supplied

Hablutzel, who took over the gavel as guild auctioneer in 1998, will be presiding over the auction for the 17th time at Spier in Stellenbosch on October 4. The first guild auction was hosted by Sotheby’s in Johannesburg on September 7, 1985 with a line-up of 18 wines submitted by just 13 members. The first auctioneer, respected UK master of wine David Molyneux-Berry, presided over the auction for seven years before it moved to Cape Town in 1992. With various auctioneers taking their turn over the next six years, the job was finally handed to Hablutzel of Hofmeyr Mills Auctioneers in 1998.

Over the past 16 auctions, Hablutzel has seen the interest by local buyers grow substantially from 50% in the late 1990s, when the lifting of sanctions generated keen interest from overseas buyers, to just over 80% in 2013.

“We have seen the number of local buyers, particularly private collectors versus overseas buyers, increase substantially in recent years, which is a clear indication of the growing interest in guild wines locally,” adds Hablutzel.

He has developed the ability to read what buyers want: “You just develop a rapport with them. Certain buyers sit in the same place in the auditorium year after year, others like to retain the same numbers. You get to know their choices, and can sometimes even pre-empt when they are going to bid.”

Hablutzel’s association with the Cape Winemakers Guild runs far deeper than presiding over

the annual auction. Since 2000, the auctioneer has been a contributor to the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Development Trust and the guild’s groundbreaking protégé programme, with personal donations to the trust of more than R205 000.

“Henré is as passionate about auctioning wine as we guild members are about making wine,” says Jeremy Walker, who saw Hablutzel in action at a wine auction all those years ago and felt he would be the right person to preside over the guild’s annual auction.

“Time has proven this to be correct – the auction results speak for themselves. He handles the auction with confidence, professionalism and has a sense of humour. Moreover, he loves wine, which enables him to get a positive and enthusiastic message across to the bidders,” adds Walker.

For the opening bid, Hablutzel has it taped: “I mainly base the starting bid on the previous year’s prices but sometimes, like last year, this can be too low!”

The annual guild auction is a Hablutzel family affair, with his wife, Wendy, daughters Leanne and Caryn, and their husbands, Brendon and Jason, taking telephonic bids on the auction floor: “I don’t have a large staff, so our families have always been involved since day one.”


> The 30th annual Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction is open to the public and takes place on October 4 at the Spier Conference Centre in Stellenbosch. The 2014 auction line-up can be tasted at Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Showcases in Cape Town on August 21 at the International Convention Centre, and in Johannesburg on August 27 at The Nedbank Atrium in Sandton.