Tuesday, October 23, 2012
At the VDP Autumn Wine Auction at Eberbach Abbey in the Rheingau, 2012, Germany
The traditional wine auctions of the German premium wine producers in the Mosel, Rheingau and Nahe regions take place in March and at the end of September. This year, I had the opportunity to participate in the September wine auction in the Rheingau.
Five Wine Auctions
Five wine auctions are held every year in Germany, where the premier German wine producers auction off some of the best young wines, as well as some older wines. Four of the five auctions are arranged by the regional associations of the Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter (VDP).
These auctions differ from wine auctions on the second-hand market held by auction houses, where collectible wines are sold by private or corporate owners, since it is "first hand" wines that are sold. The wines of the newest vintage predominate, supplemented by a limited number of rarities.
The five auctions that are held annually are:
The Hessische Staatsweingüter, the Hessian State Wineries (a government-owned VDP member), auction wines from their Rheingau and Hessische Bergstrasse operations at Kloster Eberbach in Rheingau.
Late September, on four consecutive days:
Thursday: Bernkasteler Ring in Mosel holds an auction, usually at Kloster Machern in Bernkastel-Wehlen.
Friday: VDP Grosser Ring in Mosel holds an auction, usually in the congress centre Europahalle in Trier.
Saturday: VDP Rheingau holds an auction at Kloster Eberbach.
Sunday: VDP Nahe-Ahr holds an auction, usually at Römerhalle ("Roman Hall") in Bad Kreuznach.
This year, as in the past two years, Franconian estates accepted the invitation to auction their members’ wines at the September Rheingau auction, while in Bad Kreuznach, there were a few top-quality wines on offer from VDP colleagues in Rheinhessen and the Pfalz.
Often, young wines achieve new world records at these auctions. In 2000, for example, a 1999 Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese from the Rheingau estate Weingut Robert Weil fetched DM 6,235 per bottle, while in 2001, a 750-ml bottle of 1994 Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese from Weingut Egon Müller-Scharzhof of Wiltingen on the Saar topped that record with DM 9,228.
The absolute record was set in 1987, when one bottle of 1735 Johannisberger Riesling from Weingut Schloss Schönborn fetched DM 53,00 (ca. €26,000). The winning bid was placed by a German-Canadian businessman.
All auctions include a morning pre-tasting of all wines – except for rarities and single-bottle lots. During the actual auction itself, these wines are poured again and can be sampled before the auctioneer begins the bidding (wet wine auction).
The exact auction procedures vary somewhat between the different regional auctions, but have several things in common. The wines put up for auction must be approved by a tasting panel before being admitted to the auction. After that, a calling price is decided upon after a tasting by commissioners.
The wine makers do not sell their wines to the individual participants of the auction, but rather to approved commissioners, who act as intermediaries and cast the actual bids at the auction. These number about 10 per auction. The commissioners collect bids from the interested buyers before and during the auction. In most cases, a wine lot will be divided among several commissioners, with one of them as lead buyer. Commissioners charge around five percent of the auction price for their services.
The 2012 September Auction at Kloster Eberbach
My wife Annette and I arrived at around 10:00 am and spent the next couple of hours tasting the wines that were auctioned off in the afternoon and chit-chatting with the winemakers and others who were present.
Then we all had a hearty lunch – a soup – with VDP wines.
The auction started at 1:00 pm and ended at 5:00 pm. 41 lots were auctioned off, that means, on average it took 6 minutes for each wine and 1 hour for 10 wines. Except for a few, all wines were also poured. You had plenty of time to evaluate the wine. My neighbor, Guiseppe Lauria from the Gault Millau WeinGuide took extensive notes. While we were tasting, the Auctioneer Dr. Leo Gros would ask the winemaker to join him on the stage, he would say a few words about the wine and the winemaker and then end with a funny story or something like that.
Then, the bidding would begin. Initially, the commissioners would remain in their seat, but when it would get towards the final price they would get up and assemble around the Dr. Leo Gros and talk to each other and sometimes also to the winemaker. I am not exactly sure what was happening then.
3706 bottles were auctioned off in 41 lots. The gross revenues were Euro 136.941.
The highest price of the entire auction weekend was reached at Kloster Eberbach. Visitors responded with thunderous applause when one 0.7-liter bottle of 1953 Hochheimer Domdechaney Riesling Auslese from the Hessian State Domain came under the hammer for Euros 4000 (Euros 4,998 including 5% commission and 19% VAT).
I must say, the auction at Kloster Eberbach was extremely lively. People would sip, talk to their neighbors and laugh about the jokes of the auctioneer. My facebook friend xxx who attended all 3 VDP auctions of the weekend told me that this one was the liveliest of the 3 auctions. The Mosel auction was much more toned down. But this is not surprising as at the Mosel auction the share of foreigners in the audience was much higher than at the Rheingau auction – many people could there not comprehend the very entertaining little speeches of the auctioneer.
Video of the VDP 2012 September Wine Auction in Trier
The VDP Mosel has produced a nice video of the VDP 2012 September Wine Auction in Trier.
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