With the ongoing weakening of the South African Rand, overseas interest in this year's Nederberg Auction is expected to be fierce, following a strong bid by local buyers last year to keep some of the top Cape wines in the country.

Sales last year totalled R5m - R8m, with a third of them going to supermarkets, and suppliers to restaurants, who fought to ensure they could provide top quality wines to their clients.

With the auction still eight weeks away, event manager, Bennie Howard, was loath to speculate on what individual prices could be expected this year, but said buyers from 22 countries had already accepted invitations.

These buyers must all represent agents in their home countries and they will have more than 140 wines from a record 70 participants including first time entries such as Neil Ellis, Le Bonheur, Mulderbosch and Uitkyk.

The first public tasting of the wines for the auction was held in Pretoria yesterday and Howard said the wines were very well received, but he said he would have a better feel for the auction prices after a few more tastings.

The number of participants has doubled in seven years indicative of the growing support of top local winemakers and demand particularly from overseas buyers. There are 144 wines on offer - 26 white, 86 red, 10 noble late harvest, two special late harvest, 16 fortified and four sparkling wines.