Q&A with expert sommelier & Strauss & Co fine wine auction partner...

We spoke to expert sommelier and fine wine auction partner Higgo Jacobs about the rise of the single owner private fine wine collection and the fine wine going under the hammer at the upcoming 16 May Strauss & Co auction. 

Higgo is the driving force behind a variety of projects ranging from annual fine wine events and auctions, to sommelier education and competitions. Not only is Higgo a senior judge at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) and Decanter World Wine Awards, he’s also a founding member and past chairman of the South African Sommelier Association (SASA), which does training and development for the profession in South Africa. And he’s the Director of By-Laws for the ASI (Association de le Sommellerie Internationale), the international regulatory body for the sommelier profession.

Q: Higgo, please tell us about the rise of the single owner private fine wine collection?

A: Just as with art collections, single owner fine wine collections gathered over many years reflect a lifetime’s work and passion, offering a rare opportunity to bring unique, unusual and valuable investment items to the open market. Strauss & Co fine wine auction is proud to offer one of the finest cellars ever revealed in South Africa on Sunday 16 May at 11am.


Private wine collection

Q: Can you ensure quality when wine is consigned directly from the cellars of a skilled collector?

A: As one of three fine wine auction partners with Strauss & Co auctions and the Wine Cellar fine wine merchants team we apply our combined expertise to ensure that wines are in immaculate condition, come from credible provenance and are properly stored. It’s remarkable to what extent provenance and condition affect a wine’s resale value. This single owner private collection has been stored in a large upmarket private cellar in Cape Town since import in the mid-2000s and we warrant that the wines are the pinnacle of rare, properly matured, fine wines. The application of strict criteria will enable collectors to buy outstanding wines with confidence, in a seamless and highly transparent manner.

Q: In quality guarantee, the concept of Ullage for example may be new to some buyers, could you explain?

A: Ullage is the amount of headspace between the closure and the liquid inside a wine bottle – i.e. the fill level. Over extensive periods of time, the level is expected to drop due to cork absorption and evaporation. Ullage is one of our best guides to indicate vintage bottles’ condition, and lower levels in young bottles of wine are not accepted. In general, levels below mid-shoulder are not accepted in Bordeaux shaped bottles or 7cm in Burgundy bottles except in extremely rare and old examples. Strauss & Co includes an ullage level in the condition report, accessible via catalogue for the buyer’s peace of mind. Importantly, low ullage is not the only indicator of wine quality. Often lower ullage bottles can offer the same quality as those with higher ullage.

Q: Is it true that wines are sometimes recorked for sale on auction?

A: Natural corks are a great closure for ageing wines; however, it is wise to expect a cork in an aged wine (whether white, red or fortified) to be brittle and fragile. It is hard to predict exactly when a cork will lose its youthful vigor, a sensible rule is to handle all wines older than 10 years with care when uncorking for enjoyment. The old sweet wines can be especially tricky.Where there was any doubt about the integrity of the corks in any of the wines on auction, the wines were recorked with new corks to ensure quality. In the case that the capsules, corks and fill heights still looked satisfactory it was decided not to disturb the original packaging.


Q: Please tell us about the Bordeaux wines going under the hammer on the 16th?

A: The Bordeaux line-up includes five benchmark 1982’s along with thirteen 2000s, including sealed cases of Chateau Margaux and Lafite. Vintages will excite fine wine collectors, dating back to a bottle of 1962 Chateau d’Yquem.

Q: And there’s also a collection of Burgundy wines?

A: Yes, the Burgundy collection hosts the most iconic names in Armand Rousseau, Dujac and Roumier with Grand Crus back to 1988. Vintage Bonneau du Martray, Lafarge and Faiveley feature along with vintage Champagnes as well as top sweet wines from around the world.

Q: How can auction buyers maintain the quality of their purchase?

A: To ensure that maximum enjoyment is gained from purchase, it is important that these optimum cellaring conditions are continued, especially if resale of investment wines is being considered. Contact Strauss & Co fine wine partners WineCellar.co.za for professional cellaring.


Register here to bid and place your pre-sale bids: 

In your comments, please refrain from using offensive language and unnecessary criticism. If you have to be critical, remember – it must be constructive.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *