June 16, Youth Day, marks a significant moment in South Africa’s socio-political history. Yet Youth Day 2017 is set to become significant in other ways, as the local wine industry celebrates the first ever release of Vermentino with a landmark auction, held digitally and in real time, in aid of youth development.
The inaugural auction will make available a limited edition of only 1500 litres of Vermentino. These comprise the first bottles of this type of wine ever produced in the country. Vermentino is a light-skinned wine grape that makes for a medium-full-bodied wine. It is common in Italy and widely grown in Sardinia.
The introduction of Vermentino into South Africa, from a Sardinian clone, is the brainchild of Ayama, the wine farm steered by Attilio and Michela Dalpiaz, an Italian couple who fell in love with the Western Cape and relocated to South Africa 14 years ago. Under their careful direction, Ayama has become a strong export brand that is much loved in Europe, Asia and the States, where it is distributed widely.
While Ayama has consistently produced excellent wines, primarily Chenin and Pinotage, the Dalpiazs were not content to let it rest there. They wanted to do something that would set them apart from other wine farms in the Cape; that would connect their new homeland with the culture and traditions of Italy; and which would launch the Ayama brand to the South African market, where, as yet, it has not been widely marketed.
To this end, Attilio and Michela invited Italian agronomist Augusto Fabbro to come out to South Africa in 2007 to study their terroir - Ayama lies on the lower slopes of Perdeberg Mountain - to see which variety would be best suited to their land. The climate of the Voor Paardeberg region is particularly suited to Mediterranean style wines and thus Vermentino was identified as the most likely candidate. There followed six years of import permissions, quarantine approvals and propagation before the very first Vermentino vines could be planted at Ayama in 2014.
This historic occasion was marked by a convivial “planting party” where each special guest was given the honour of digging the virgin vines into the earth. The party also celebrated the first decade of the Dalpiazs, and their Italian friends and partners, in South Africa. One hectare – a solid block – was planted. Now, the fruits of those very first vines have been pressed into a maiden vintage.
Further distinguishing this wine, is the fact that classical music was played in the wine cellar during the fermentation process. This resulted in the “must” of the wine forming an unusual and beautiful pattern, images of which were used to inspire the distinctive label design of the wine bottle. The design features an embossed gold illustration on the front and gold sealing wax on the neck - both echo the delightful golden hue of the wine.
The Dalpiazs were eager to set this important wine apart, and so were not keen to sell it in a conventional manner. Thus the idea of an auction was born. Auctions are not particularly common in the wine industry and when they happen, usually cover many different types of wine, and so a single farm, single vintage auction is a confident departure from the norm.
The auction is made even more interesting by the fact that there will be an online bidding component, which will be live on the farm’s website - http://ayamavermentino.com/. This is intended to give Ayama’s devoted international and local following a chance to purchase some of the historic, first-ever Vermentino to be grown and produced in South Africa. The Vermentino will be auctioned in lots containing bottles and cases of various sizes, and all of it will be sold on auction.
Both the online and real-time bidding will take place on 16 June 2017. The digital component of the auction will run from 0h00 to 12h00 (midnight to midday) while the real-time event takes place from 11h00-12h00 at Roodebloem Studios in Woodstock, Cape Town.
One of the differences between the two is that Cape Town guests will be treated to a tasting of the rare new wine once the auction is over. While the main thrust of the event is to celebrate this special moment in winemaking history, the proceeds of the auction will benefit the children of the Perdjie School – as is fitting for a Youth Day event.
While the Dalpiazs will naturally be inviting clients and colleagues to the real time auction in Cape Town, there are limited tickets available for members of the public to attend. These tickets will be sold ahead of the event only and pre-booking is through www.wine.co.za. A mere 40 reserved seats are available at a cost of R300 each, with all proceeds going to Perdjie School.
The cost of the ticket secures participation at this exclusive event, which is set to take place in the decommissioned, historic church buildings that form part of Roodebloem Studios in Woodstock. The ticket also includes drinks and canapes at the close of the bidding and guests will be able to keep a special-edition bidding ballot as a memento of this historic day…