The revamped Tabernacle



When the famed Tabernacle in Stellenbosch auctioned off a treasure trove of iconic South African and international wines at one of Strauss & Co’s most talked-about events earlier this month, South African wines performed outstandingly well.


All the wines for the auction were drawn from the esteemed underground cellar, the Tabernacle, that houses over 12 000 vinous gems from around the world.

South Africa’s showstoppers of the evening were the legendary GS Cabernets (thought to be made by Stellenbosch Farmer’s Winery winemaker, George Spies). They fetched by far the highest prices of any South African wines on the auction.


Authoritative UK wine critic, Jancis Robinson had previously given the GS Cabernet 1966 a perfect score of 20/20, the only South African wine ever to merit such a rating by her.  Her esteem for the wine must have had an impact, given that the same vintage went under the Strauss & Co hammer for R38 000, while the 1968 vintage fetched a price of R28 000. In case you’re wondering, that was per bottle!

Zonnebloem Cabernets


Said Michael van Deventer, curator of the Tabernacle wine library: “We are absolutely thrilled. What a vote of confidence in these wines, especially when you consider that the starting bid was R25 000 a bottle!”

Tabernacle Curator Michael Van Deventer


Amongst the other heavy hitters of the event were the 1959 and 1940 vintages of Chateau Libertas that went for R20 000 each; the Nederburg Auction Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1974 bottles that were sold for R11 000 each; and the Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon, for R14 000.


When the famous US winemaker, Robert Mondavi tasted this 1974 Nederburg wine, he pronounced it “magnificent” and a “rapture”.



Funds raised from the Tabernacle sale are to be directed towards a project intended to honour the late Duimpie Bayly, who died last year.  He had been associated with Distell from 1962, initially when he was appointed by Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (SFW) and George Spies had been his boss. He quickly rose through the ranks and became a director, first of SFW, and then Distell. He served on the Distell board until his retirement in 2013.





About the Tabernacle:

The recently revamped Tabernacle in Stellenbosch is a hallowed place amongst the wine fraternity and the other lucky few who have been admitted. An underground wine library established in 1979, it archives some of South Africa’s greatest vinous treasures. It has come to serve as a most precious historical, winemaking, and cultural resource.


Today thousands of bottles are stored here under ideal ageing conditions. The collection includes two half-bottles of Constantia wines dating back to 1821, various wines from the 1920s as well as all the other decades of the 20th century. More recently, other age-worthy reds from the 21st century have been finding their way into the Tabernacle.