The Barossa Wine Auction is the ultimate wine lover's experience

A first time visitor to the Barossa Valley in South Australia, who has never attended a prestigious wine auction, is the new owner a 6L bottle of Penfolds Grange Imperial Shiraz 2013 outbidding others with a cool price tag of $58,0000.

The famous Barossa Wine Auction, which began in 1961 and runs biannually, has long held its reputation as a world leader in auctioning some of the most famous wines from the region. Each year it attracts up to 350 guests including winemakers and their top clients as well as local and international collectors.

However this year was the third time in a row that the highest purchase was made by an overseas collector.

It's also the first time a single bottle of Penfolds Bin 60A Cabernet Shiraz 1962 750ml sold for three times the estimated sale price of $21,552.

Reel them in

Barossa Master Anson Mui, who works with the Barossa Grape and Wine Association, helps lure overseas clients to the wine region. They don't need much convincing given the reputation that great reds [and Rieslings] all lead to the Barossa.

This year Mui hosted two tables of 10 guests from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong who had their hearts set on taking a reputed collectable bottle home. They're wined and dined, take on winery tours and tempted by the luxury offerings of this great pocket of South Australia.

"The Barossa region is well known in Asia and many who have come here for the first time are big lovers of wine and saw the auction as an opportunity to start collecting," says Mui.

"We can also thank the introduction of the China Free Trade agreement which allows importing wine a lot easier for overseas clients while direct flights from Guangzhou to Adelaide has also created plenty of interest," he says.

With five flights a week coming into the region from China means more restaurant owners can access Barossa wines directly and add them to their wine lists. What's more, Chinese visitors alone contribute $315 million to SA's economy with a target set for $450 million by 2020.

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Barrels of choice

While Penfolds is always the biggest drawcard at the rare vintage auction, other wines that fared well included the Torbrek RunRig Shiraz Imperial 2007 vintage selling for $5800 [more than $1000 above its catalogue top-end estimate] while the Yalumba signature Cabernet/Shiraz vertical - sold for an astounding $8000; that's $5K above reserve.

 Australian wine collector Clinton Tilley walked away with two purchases close to $10,000. He's been attending the rare wine auction for the past 14 years.

"I love red wine and love the Barossa more than any other region in the world," says Tilley.

"I purchased three two-litre magnums that came with lunch packages as a way of sharing the experience with friends and showing them what I love about the region, he says.

Stiff competition

Tilley says competing against overseas customers makes it hard to score the higher end items.

"I've noticed a massive shift from domestic to international buyers over that time and bidding against them is becoming more difficult, but it's the right thing for the local region to be recognised globally. It helps with distribution of their wines and to make their businesses more successful and sustainable," he says.

A rare find indeed

According to auctioneer, Tamara Grischy, the rarity of the wines released with hard to find bottles, is what makes the event exciting for attendees.

"These wines have been curated by the winemakers themselves, they are rare and you can't buy these bottles anywhere except at this event," says Tamara Grischy.

"The vibe is amazing and everyone wants in," she says.

"Three Riesling lots went way above the reserve estimate which proves that buying and accessing those vertical lots with back vintages propels pricing and there's people in the room passionate enough to do anything to own it."  

The writer was a guest of Barossa Valley Wine Auction Group.