Handpicked and curated by master sommelier Mathias Camilleri, Nederburg’s Auction Exclusive Collection showcases South Africa’s diversity of terroir

SINGAPORE (Jan 21): There is no end to learning, even for someone who has tasted and examined enough of the world’s best wines to attain master sommelier status — a feat that fewer than 250 individuals in the world have managed to accomplish. As Singapore’s first and perhaps only master sommelier, Mathias Camilleri discovered this firsthand when he attended the 44th annual Nederburg Auction last September in Paarl, South Africa, where he had the opportunity to sample -limited-edition, rare cuvées and vintages for the first time.

Successfully-bid wines from the auction were flown back to Singapore to form the Auction Exclusive Collection, a milestone project that Camilleri initiated with the aim of introducing wine lovers in Singapore to the best of South African winemaking. The inaugural tasting was held in November at Cé La Vi, where Camilleri works as the restaurant’s chief sommelier.

“We [sommeliers] spent a lot of time [with our noses] in the books, and not enough time in the vineyards,” said the master sommelier during his opening speech for the private event. “South Africa has always been a country that I’ve wanted to visit… It’s definitely one of the oldest New World countries for wines. Being able to go there and meet the producers and winemakers was extremely important to me.”

Among the highlights of the collection was a 2012 Private Bin Edelkeur Noble Late Harvest sold exclusively to the auction. Made with 100% Chenin Blanc, this sweet, unfortified dessert wine is seen by Camilleri as a testament to South Africa’s white winemaking heritage and abilities, being “the perfect expression of how Chenin Blanc should taste”.

 “The bouquet showcases the aromas of quince, apricot and honey, with a touch of toffee and spices. The palate has a great balance between sweetness and acidity. A great wine to start, enjoy or end a meal,” he says of the Edelkeur, which was first created by Nederburg’s former winemaker Gunter Brözel in 1969.

Attesting to the versatility of the Chenin Blanc variety, the Heritage Heroes’ The Anchorman 2013 Chenin Blanc is another show-stopper in the collection, although it boasts an entirely different flavour profile from that of the Edelkeur. Made from hand-picked grapes that are fully ripe, it is a blend of four differently vinified components fermented in French oak, very old wood and stainless steel as well as using carbonic maceration. The result is a wine bursting with fresh citrus-floral notes, with slight hints of spices and a crisp finish. 

Heritage Heroes is a limited-edition gourmet range established to honour five legendary winemasters of Nederburg beginning with “The Anchorman”, which is named after the brand’s founder Philippus Wolvaart. Another favourite from this range, The Motorcycle Marvel, was picked for the Nederburg Auction Exclusive Collection in its 2009 vintage. This Rhône-style blend of red wine pays tribute to Brözel, who regularly made his rounds through the vineyards on a motorcycle during his 30-odd years of serving as Nederburg’s cellar master. It mainly comprises Grenache, followed by Shiraz and Mourvèdre, to result in a strikingly complex, spicy and smoky cuvée meant to reflect Brözel’s “biker spirit”, in Camilleri’s words.

Other wines found in the Auction Exclusive Collection in Singapore include two Cabernet Sauvignons: a 2003 vintage from Nederburg’s Private Bin Collection, and another 2007 one from the II Centuries Collection that focuses on single-varietal “best of the best” wine produced to celebrate Nederburg’s two centuries of skill, tradition and heritage.

“It has been very exciting to have [Camilleri’s] expertise in creating the Auction Exclusive Collection for Singapore. This is our way of sharing with the rest of the world the excellent calibre of our producers, the unique character of our regions and the quality of South African wines,” says Nederburg’s general manager, Vihann Le Roux.

“South Africa boasts such a diversity of terroir, with superb areas for cool-climate winemaking. It’s backed by not just a rich history, but also decades of winemaking know-how. This is a fact that many wine lovers are not familiar with. I was particularly impressed by how a sizeable winery like Nederburg can consistently produce wines of such excellent quality,” Camilleri adds.

The Auction Exclusive Collection is available at Cé La Vi (1 Bayfront Avenue, Marina Bay Sands Tower 3), Restaurant JAG (76 Duxton Road), the 1855 Bottle Shop (Marina One East Tower, 5 Straits View #01-24) and Cut by Wolfgang Puck (2 Bayfront Avenue, B1-71, Galleria Level, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands). Visit www.nederburgauction.co.za for more information.