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Published:  23 July, 2008

The success of South Africa's indigenous grape variety, Pinotage, was the big topic at this year's world famous Nederburg Auction in South Africa's Paarl district. On the record first day, in which auctioneer Patrick Grubb sold a total of R5.1 million (316,000) worth of wine, a six-bottle case of 1966 Lanzerac Pinotage sold to a Cape Town buyer for R1,200, while a selection of the Cape's ten premium Pinotages realised up to R3,800. Prices were around 12% higher than last year's event. Other wines that sold well included six-bottle cases of Veenwouden's 1997 Classic, fetching R2,500, and Thelema's 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, which went for R2,900 for a six-bottle case. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Italian winemaker Marchese Piero Antinori stressed the importance of South Africa producing a world-class wine. Just as California is known for its Zinfandel and New Zealand for its Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa should concentrate on producing a world-class Pinotage,' he said. However, Clive Torr, Distell's wine development manager, said that the Rainbow Nation's wine industry is split over Pinotage, and that those in favour of developing it as the country's USP varietal' are agonising over which style to favour - the chunky, Chteauneuf-du-Pape style, or the more elegant 100% French oak, claret-style expensive boutique wines. He said: It is early days, but we have a love/hate relationship with Pinotage. We are unsure which way to go and we are undertaking a lot of work to find out.' Asked if South Africa is close to having an icon wine, like Australia's Grange, Torr said: We have come a long way in the last nine years and we believe we have caught up. We have suffered from a lack of knowledge, but our winemakers are learning. We are looking at single vineyards and site-specific wines,' said Torr. We have quality Syrah and Cabernet and we do not know yet whether Pinotage has the class or breeding we need to take it forward.'