Klein Constantia Estate – Mastering Site-Specific Sauvignon Blanc in the Cape…

The Klein Constantia emphasis has recently been re-engineered and re-imagined with a renewed emphasis on the exceptional Sauvignon Blanc terroirs of this ancient Constantia estate. With the Vin de Constance sweet wine project reaching new heights of quality annually together with the accompanying international critical praise, this has allowed the powers at Klein Constantia to dedicate more thought and resources to the future potential of Sauvignon Blanc as well as the red wines at Anwilka in Stellenbosch.

Chatting to head winemaker Matt Day recently, he explained that he has learnt a lot from the single vineyard block wines over the past few years as well as from the Metis joint-venture project with Pouilly Fume producer Pascal Jolivet, inspiring him and his team to refocus and refine the knowledge and knowhow acquired over the past years and channel it into the estate’s white Sauvignon Blanc wine range. In the past, the single block wines have acted as the research and development lab for the estate and now it is time to put this knowhow to greater commercial use in raising the quality profile of first and foremost, Klein Constantia’s main Sauvignon Blanc Estate wine.

Ahead of World Sauvignon Blanc Day celebrated from the 7th to the 9th of May, I tasted through Klein Constantia’s exciting new releases and was simply bowled over by the world class quality.

Klein Constantia Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Constantia

13.8% Abv. | 3.3pH | TA 5.8 | RS 1.8

Up to 36 different blocks from vines grown on Granite and Sandstone soils are used in this impressive Sauvignon Blanc blend with around 80% of grapes fermented using wild fermentation to produce on average 120,000 bottles. No sulphur is used at crushing and fermentation temperatures start at 14 to 15 deg C before being cooled down to 12 deg C, before finally being raised at the end of fermentation back up to 15 deg C to finish off.

An attractive, complex Sauvignon Blanc that thrives on expressing a blend of the cool climate Klein Constantia sites that show a delicious melange of bitter / savoury / umami and saline characters. With the Sandstone soil sites offering richer and rounder flavours and the granitic soils tauter, more mineral, pithy white citrus characters, this vintage reveals a wonderfully rich textured and expressive palate that is loaded white citrus, yellow grapefruit, gooseberry, mango peel, apple puree, freshly cut grass and quince preserve. Fabulously constructed with delicious mid-palate balance, notable concentration and a long alluring finish. This is a fantastic vintage for Sauvignon Blanc, Klein Constantia and lovers of intricate Sauvignon Blanc.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Klein Constantia Metis Sauvignon Blanc 2018, WO Constantia

14% Abv | 3.26 pH |6.5 TA | 2.2 RS

Metis is a wine that grew out of a historic collaboration with Loire producer Pascal Jolivet and pushes Constantia Sauvignon to the limits in an attempt to emulate a more Sancerre style of winemaking with oxidative must handling, 100% wild ferment used and 20% neutral oak fermentation and then ageing, with the resulting wine left for 9 months in barrel before being racked to stainless steel tanks, back blended and aged in tank for a further three months.

2018 was a hot early drought vintage and despite Constantia suffering less vintage variation than hotter inland areas due to the tempering effect of the ocean, the Metis is still boasts a bold 14% alcohol yet remains incredibly cool, classical and mineral with a pronounced stony, grey slate character. The style of winemaking tries to accentuate the philosophical Old World roots of Metis and boasts vineyards with altitude and that are rich in granitic soils. The character of the wine reveals layers of limestone, savoury lime peel, citrus, salinity and yellow grapefruit notes and finishes with a long tangy, peppery, concentrated flinty intensity. Fabulous balance, mouth watering acidity and an overall feeling of liquid minerality. An impressively different expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Klein Constantia Perdeblokke Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Constantia

13.8% Abv | 3.08 pH | 7.0 TA | 2.2 RS

The first single vineyard wine produced since 2005. Pungent, bold, expressive and made in a punchy style that’s made to assault the senses with its intensity. Fermation was begun in stainless steel and 100% barrel finished for the final 2/3rds of fermention. There is nothing shy about this wine and in 2020, it is loaded with even more intensity and Sauvignon Blanc fire power. The aromatics burst with black currant leaf, orange citrus, umani savoury notes, rich tangerine peel, flinty spice, fresh naartjies and quince with subtle cut grass and root fennel savoury nuances that will almost certainly acquire rudimentary notes of cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush with further bottle development. Full bodied and precise while never erring on the side of heavy, this wine will drink wonderfully in its youth due to its mouth-watering acidity and intense fruit concentration.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Klein Constantia Clara Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Constantia

13.38% Abv | 3.16 pH | 6.8 TA | 2.4 RS

Normally a blend of predominantly blocks 372, 381, and the 361 organic block as well as oddments of other blocks all aged in 500 litre French oak and acacia barrels, 30% new. After fermentation, the best barrels are selected from the best blocks and the wine is made in a more opulent, punchy style primarily for the US market, with more richness, texture and generally more rounder Bordeaux style white characters. 30% of the fermentation completed in tank before being transferred to barrel with the fine lees to complete fermentation.

Klein Constantia are said to be aiming for a bolder, richer Bordeaux Blanc style with the Clara, displaying pear, pineapple, yellow grapefruit pastille and a riper and rounder texture. The end result is just splendid. There is indeed more richness and lees contact complexity, notes of kiwi fruits, acacia wood and an overall rounding influence of oak without the wine showing any overt oaky characters per se. Rich, intense, plush and textured, this is seriously grown-up Sauvignon Blanc with sensational concentration, intensity and length. I am certainly sold! What a beauty.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Klein Constantia Block 382 Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Constantia

13.87% Abv | 3.19 pH | 6.8 TA | 2 RS

One of the gems in the Klein Constantia portfolio, these three segmented parcels of the Block 382 are located on almost directly South facing slopes at 320 metres above sea level on grainy granitic soils. Block 382.1 is trellised and Block 382.2 and 382.3 are 100% bush vines. In some vintages, they only use the trellised vines and in others, like 2019, only the bush vines which were fermented and aged for 20 months in 500 litre barrels before bottling.

Matt Day says if he could make just one Sauvignon Blanc every year from the estate, he would want it all to taste like the 2019 Block 382. The wine presents an intricate nose of gun smoke, wet stones, struck flint and savoury, briney maritime notes. The palate is packed full of gooseberry, prickly acids, grassy green pear, green apple bolstered by a fleshy, glycerol mid-palate, tart lime, gooseberry and a rock salt, briney finish. Super complex, very stable from extended ageing, Matt describes this iconic wine as “bullet proof” and one for the long haul. In my experience, it is certainly one of the most profound expressions of Sauvignon Blanc I have tasted from South Africa in many, many years. Track it down if you can!

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Cantina Terlano – Tasting the Nova Domus Riserva 2017 From the Most Famous White Wine Co-operative in the World…

Founded in 1893, the Cantina Terlano winery is now regarded as one of the leading wine growers’ cooperatives in South Tyrol, Italy, with a current membership of 143 growers working a total area of 190 hectares. That is the equivalent of some 1.5 million bottles of wine a year overseen by head winemaker Rudi Kofler.

Cantina Terlano and their members have long had a strong focus on quality which has attracted praise and recognition on not only the local Italian market but also on all international fine wine markets. If there are better white wines produced by a co-operative anywhere else in the world I’d like to know about it! Indeed, many of their iconic and memorable wines from the 1950s and 1960s, which rank amongst the greatest white wines ever produced, were made at Cantina Terlaner.

The unique microclimate at the foot of Mount Tschöggel determines the potential age-worthiness and the characteristics of these wines. The soils are very rich in schists and porphyry, a rocky nature that allows for heat accumulation and excellent water drainage.

I write a lot about the fascinating white blends made in South Africa, but the Alto Adige DOC is another one of the few areas in the world that also champions premium white blends of exceptional quality. This cuvee Nova Domus Riserva is a classical regional blend of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Cantina Terlano Nova Domus 2017 Terlaner Riserva, Alto Adige Terlano DOC, 14% Abv.

This is one of the most seductive and majestic Italian white wines I’ve tasted in a long time. The nose suggests great precision and restraint with focused complexity, showing subtle notes of white flowers, dried baking herbs, waxy green apples, crunchy pineapple, sea breeze and a stony minerality. The palate is taut and restrained initially but then slowly starts to reveal plenty of pineapple pastille, apple purée, green pear fruits and the most precise, structured, crystalline purity on the finish. The use of more older oak (compared to earlier vintages) is noticeable allowing the pristine fruit purity and terroir minerality to really shine. This is certainly an Italian Grand Cru white of exceptional quality. Drink now and over 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Special Limited Release Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2020 from Duncan Savage…

Duncan’s previous life at Cape Point Vineyards is certainly well documented, for it was during his tenure there as head winemaker that he pretty much perfected the art of producing iconic Sauvignon Blanc. In 2019 Duncan happened to stumble upon a 32 year old block of bush vine Sauvignon Blanc in Stellenbosch. The elevation, wind and vine age all pointed in the right direction and after a bit of experimentation, the Salt River Sauvignon Blanc label was born.

It seems Duncan fell in love with the wine and vineyard and along with his UK importer Swig Wines, decided to create a new brand and style separate from the rest of the Savage Wines range. Salt River is in the heart of the city of Cape Town, and is of course where Duncan’s trendy urban winery can be found. As Duncan’s UK importer Swig Wines points out, “Salt River is very reminiscent of an edgy Shoreditch in London a few years back.”

Duncan in his Salt River winery in Cape Town’s city centre.

This Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in a combination of stainless steel tanks, concrete eggs and old barrels. The wine spent four months in these vessels before being bottled, followed by a further two months in bottle prior to release. Only 500 cases of this wine were produced.

Savage Salt River Sauvignon Blanc 2020, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5% Abv.

RS 2 g/l | pH 3.3 | TA 6.4 g/l

This has all the hallmarks of an expert Sauvignon Blanc master negotiating the ripeness and pungency of this variety with extreme precision. Beautifully complex and intense, the aromatics show notes of freshly cut fennel, green asparagus, yellow baking apples, waxy lemon peel and hints of fresh wet thatch. On the palate, it’s just as impressive with nervy, pithy yellow grapefruit peel zest, white citrus spice, tangerine and glycerol peach liquor nuances on the saline finish. This is next level Sauvignon Blanc that will appeal to novices and connoisseurs alike. Pop and pour!

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Ups and Downs of Great Sauvignon Blanc – Tasting the Thorne & Daughters Snakes & Ladders 2019…

Made from fruit sourced from another Skurfberg vineyard owned by grower Basie van Lill, this Sauvignon Blanc vineyard planted in 1997 used to be sold off to a co-operative winery before John Seccombe secured the fruit for his maiden vintage of the Thorne & Daughters Snakes & Ladders Sauvignon Blanc.

Made from tiny yields of around 2.2 tons per hectare, the grapes were whole bunch pressed and fermented with wild yeast in mix of 225 and 600 litre old oak barrels where the wines remain on their gross lees for 9-10 months before blending and bottling. John Seccombe favours malolactic fermentation over early additions of sulphur dioxide, and the wines only see a first addition of SO2 in the early winter as they look for wines that show tension without losing their suppleness and core, and wines that will reward time in the cellar. The finished wines were bottled unfined.

John Seccombe succinctly sums up… “My natural inclination was to have little interest in working with Sauvignon Blanc, but seeing the vineyard and the soils, I felt compelled to work with it.”

Thorne & Daughters Snakes & Ladders 2019, WO Citrusdal Mountain, 13.5% Abv.

From the first sniff, you know this is something special in the glass showing a beautifully complex nose of lemon grass, lime peel, white citrus and black currant leaf, crunchy white pear and subtle hints of bergamot. The palate is equally unique and utterly mesmerising showing a nervy steely liquid mineral core, oyster shell water and West Coast sea breeze nuances, a grassy sappy textural wood spice intensity and a fabulously tart complex finish with subtle hints of granadilla, naartjie peel and briney rock salt. Not really like any other Sauvignon Blanc on the South African market. Drink now to 2026+.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Now distributed in the UK market by Liberty Wines.

Tasting the Impressive Wines Selected for the 2020 Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction…

The 2020 Nedbank CWG Auction hosted by Bonhams London will be held online on Saturday 3rd October from 12h00 (BST). Due to Coronavirus, there were no public tastings prior to sale making the limited tastings by a select group of wine journalists even more important this year. The line-up comprises 28 wines with total cases on offer amounting to 564 cases (6 x 750ml) compared to 45 wines and 1,932 cases in 2019.

One of the eye catching wines in 2020…

In support of one of the Guild members, buyers will have the opportunity to bid on smaller lots – the funds raised by the first case of six bottles of every wine will be given as financial assistance to Samantha O’Keefe, whose Lismore property in Greyton was devastated by fire in December last year. The CWG will also be hosting a 50 – item Vinotheque Auction made up of select older wines donated by members with express objective being to raise funds to assist employees within their businesses whose livelihoods have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 CWG Selection:

CWG host and Jordan Winery owner Gary Jordan taking us through the 2020 CWG wines.

Graham Beck Cuvée 129 Extra Brut 2009, WO Western Cape

Winemaker: Pieter Ferreira. 51% Pinot Noir, 49% Chardonnay. Cuvée 129 refers to the number of months on the lees aging – 10 years and 9 months.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Silverthorn Big Dog VI Méthode Cap Classique 2015, WO Robertson

Winemaker: John Loubser. 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. Chardonnay fermented and aged in old French oak, Pinot Noir in steel. 50 months on lees.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

De Grendel Wooded Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Darling.

Winemaker: Charles Hopkins. Crushed, 18 hours skin contact, then settled and fermented in old oak.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Bartho Eksteen Vloekskoot Sauvignon Blanc 2019, WO Cape Coast

Winemaker: Bartho Eksteen. Whole bunch pressed, no settling. Naturally fermented in older, big wood.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Simonsig Mediterraneo 2015, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Johan Malan. 66% Roussanne, 28% Grenache Blanc, 6% Verdelho. Whole bunch pressed, mix of wild and cultured yeast.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Miles Mossop Wines Saskia-Jo 2018, WO Swartland

Winemaker: Miles Mossop. 65% Chenin Blanc, 25% Clairette Blanche, 10% Grenache Blanc. Decomposed granite soils.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Rijk’s CWG Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Tulbagh

Winemaker: Pierre Wahl. 14-year-old bush vines, fermented in new and used French oak.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Raats Family Wines The Fountain Terroir Specific Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Bruwer Raats. Rich, creamy but super bright with leesy, peachy fruit complexity and incredible precision and vibrant intensity.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2018, WO Elgin

Winemaker: Andries Burger. From the oldest Chardonnay vineyard on the Estate, planted in 1987 (the oldest vines in Elgin).

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Leeu Passant Radicales Libres Chardonnay 2015, WO Klein Karoo

Winemaker: Andrea Mullineux. 100% Chardonnay, long elevage inspired by Jura and Rioja. From the incredibly cool Barrydale Valley in the Klein Karoo, after fermentation this Chardonnay was aged in barrel for five years.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ataraxia Under The Gavel Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Winemaker: Kevin Grant.  Cool and Crystalline with a stony minerality, pithy peachy yellow citrus concentration and a long, pure brilliance.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Windansea Pinot Noir 2017, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Winemaker: Gordon Newton Johnson. Stoniest, most clay-rich parts of the vineyard used for this. No sulfites in the winemaking. 11 months in barrel then six months in large oak.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Neil Ellis Wines Amper Bo Tempranillo 2015, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Warren Ellis. Whole berry fermentation then 18 months in 60% new French oak barrels and 40% in second fill.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Rust en Vrede CWG Auction Estate 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Coenie Snyman. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ernie Els CWG 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Louis Strydom. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Shiraz, 10% Cinsault. Fermentation in small 300 litre open top oak barrels with three weeks extended maturation.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Luddite The Lone Stranger Mark II 2018, WO Bot River

Winemaker: Niels Verburg. 50% Mourvèdre, 40% Shiraz, 10% Grenache Noir. Small open fermenters then pressed to barrel for two years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Delaire Graff Estate Banghoek Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Morné Very. 55% Cabernet Franc, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec. Whole berry fermentation with limited punch downs. Four weeks post-ferment maturation on skins before being basket pressed. Matured in 40% new French 225 litre barrels for 16 months.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Spier Frans K Smit Auction Selection 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Frans K Smit. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Organic.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Strydom Family Wines The Game Changer 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Rianie Strydom. 80% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot. North facing slopes on the Helderberg.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Abrie Beeslaar. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot. From Simonsberg. Fermented in open top ‘kuipe’ for six days, then malolactic fermentation in tank, and matured in new French oak for two years.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Groot Constantia CWG Gouverneurs Reserve 2018, WO Constantia

Winemaker: Boela Gerber. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Cabernet Franc. 75% new oak.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Villiera Drip Barrel Cabernet Franc 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Jeff Grier. 18 months in new and used French oak.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Edgebaston Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: David Finlayson. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. From the clay-heavy section of their GS vineyard, picked five days earlier than the rest of the vineyard. New French oak for two years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Hartenberg CWG Auction Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Carl Schultz. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bottelary Hills. 20 days on skins, 20 months in 50% new 225 litre French oak barrels.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah 2018, WO Stellenbosch

Winemaker: Jacques Borman. Harvested in three tranches, 30% whole bunch. Some matured in concrete, some in barrel (30% new).

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Shiraz 2018, WO Cederberg

Winemaker: David Nieuwoudt. Red slate soils. 85% new oak.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Saronsberg Die Erf Shiraz 2017, WO Tulbagh

Winemaker: Dewaldt Heyns. The best barrel of Block 27. Aged for 20 months in a new French Allier oak barrel.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Boplaas Cape Vintage CWG Reserve 2015, WO Western Cape

Winemaker: Carel Nel. 80% Touriga Nacional, 10% Touriga Franca, 6% Souzão, 4% Tinta Barocca. Fermented and fortified in small lagares and barrel matured in large seasoned oak barrels.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The CWG dinner at the River Cafe London.

Benchmark Sauvignon Blanc to Die For – Tasting the Impressive Neil Ellis Amica 2017…

Even though I love a great Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, New Zealand or South Africa, I still need to be in the mood for it whereas a great Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay will tick all my boxes any day of the week and accompanying almost any food. However, acting as host and moderator for a recent 67 Pall Mall Zoom Tasting with Warren Ellis gave me the opportunity to revisit this incredible barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc from the Neil Ellis winery. Wow, what a revelation!

The source of the fruit for this wine is a little single vineyard site from the Jonkershoek Valley. The soil consists of decomposed granite and quartz. Grapes were harvested at 21.8 – 22.4ºB with a total acidity of 8.69 g/ and pH of 3.18. The grapes were whole bunch pressed using a Champagne pressing cycle to ensure only the finest quality juice being used. The fermentation was occurred naturally in 500 litre puncheons of which 20% was new. The wine spent 9 months in barrel. (500l).

Neil Ellis Amica Sauvignon Blanc 2017, WO Jonkershoek Valley, 13% Abv.

What a cool. intense, complex glassful. Just brimming with notes of sweet bread fruit, white citrus, white blossom, gooseberry and yellow grapefruit. The wine is rich but exotic evolving slowly in the glass while the palate is power packed, intense and electric with intense, savoury, grassy notes of green quince, green plum, tart yellow grapefruit and savoury, leesy, gooseberry notes. There is oak there but to mention it as a specific descriptive is to deny it’s all encompassing, broad-armed embrace that imbues the wine with extra elegance and grace. This has got to be the most interesting, mouthwatering, juicy, complex Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted in a long time, from anywhere! Superb now, but will age well for another decade or more!

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Available in the UK from distributor Gonzales Byass.

Tasting The Innovative Cool Climate White Wines From Klein Constantia With Winemaker Matt Day…

Whenever friends tell me they’ll be in Cape Town for work or other travel and have one day spare for some wine tourism, Klein Constantia is normally top of the list along with Groot Constantia and Buitenverwachting for an idyllic few hours of wine tasting.

Dating back to 1685 and described as one of the world’s most beautiful wine estates, this famous winery set amidst ancient trees on the upper foothills of the Constantiaberg, with views across False Bay, offers some of the most interesting Sauvignon Blancs and sweet wines in the entire Cape.

Young Klein Constantia winemaker Matt Day started his wine career with an internship at Meerlust Estate in 2007 and followed that experience up with stints in the Barossa Valley, Napa Valley, St Emilion and Sancerre. In 2009 he was appointed as the assistant winemaker to Adam Mason before taking over the top job itself in 2012 when Adam moved on to Mulderbosch.

The 146 hectare wine estate originally formed part of “Constantia”, a vast property established in 1685 by Simon van der Stel, the first governor of the Cape. This particular valley was chosen not only for its beauty, but also for the decomposed granite soils on its slopes, gently cooled by ocean breezes. Prized by world leaders and the global aristocracy throughout 18th Century Europe, Constantia’s Vin de Constance was revived by Klein Constantia in 1986, reaffirming this unique natural sweet wine’s place in history.

Today, Klein Constantia not only continues to make some of South Africa’s very best dessert wines but also an impressive array of Sauvignon Blanc cuvees that reflect the cool Constantia climate. On his most recent trip to London, I caught up with Matt to taste his current releases as well as some exciting new vintages.

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Constantia, 13.5 Abv.

Wonderful opulence with a delicious melange of tropical fruits, cassis leaf, gooseberry and smokey boxwood spice with hints of mango peel and waxy green apples. Full and mouthfilling, textured and broad, this warm vintage has yielded massive leesy concentration, rich citrus flavours but ample vibrant acidity. Very impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Constantia, 13.5 Abv.

Another warm dry vintage but with 17% wild ferment and a portion of barrel ageing. Still slightly reduced, there are layers of minerals, crushed granite, cassis leaf, wet slate and pear purée. Palate is bright, zippy and intense, with fine palate core tension, big aromatics, vibrant acidity and luxurious complexity on the finish. A very pretty wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Klein Constantia Metis Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Constantia, 14 Abv.

100% wild ferment, small amount of barrel ferment from some single vineyard declassified parcels. A far more dusty, mineral nose with crushed granite, limestone, boxwood and hints of flinty struck match reduction. Rich and textural, but still plenty of fruit restraint. Quite a distinct chalky, gooseberry atypical style of Sauvignon Blanc that spends 12 months on the lees. Bright, drying acids, this is one for old world lovers.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Klein Constantia Perdeblokke Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Constantia, 13.5 Abv.

Hints of new season asparagus, gooseberry, dried baking herbs and fennel root notes. Super individual and complex from this superb high slope single vineyard. Palate follows with crystalline fresh acids, fresh sage, waxy green apples and an incredibly long, concentrated finish. Quite profound expression, this assaults the senses and titilates the palate. A beauty!

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Klein Constantia No. 382 Experimental Block Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Constantia, 14 Abv.

No sulphur at crush, free run juice, all wild ferment in a more funky Metis kind of style. Lovely nuanced nose of green fruits, gooseberry leaf, cats pee, black currant pastille and a dusty khaki-bush fynbos character. Sweet mint leaf, waxy green apples, quince and exotic fennel root and savoury asparagus complexity. Wow, what a wine!

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Klein Constantia No. 382 Experimental Block Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Constantia, 14.8 Abv.

Unique nose of asparagus, green fruits, tinned petit pois peas and an alluring savoury boxwood and wet chalk mineral depth. Creamy and textural, there is big glycerol weight, palate flesh, sweet gooseberry and leesy, white citrus concentration. Still a baby, this is a wine with gravitas and power, focus and impressive depth. Touch warm on the finish but certainly tempered by the fresh crystalline acids. A whole lot of wine in a bottle!

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Klein Constantia Chardonnay 2015, Constantia, 12.5 Abv.

Aged in 500 litre French oak barrels, there is plenty of subtlety with a fine cool climate approach keeping this wine restrained and in check. Plenty of palate opulence with pink rock candy, citrus peel, dried herbs and creamy biscuit spice. Very cool, rich but light on its feet, with great drinkability.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Klein Constantia Estate Red 2014, Constantia, 14 Abv.

58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Shiraz, 14% Petit Verdot, and 9% Malbec. Sweet creamy opulent black fruits, plummy and sappy, sweet resinous breadth with creamy vanilla pod spice, black berry flesh and coffee bean mocha spice. Lovely texture, sleek fine grained and lovely harmonious cherry and black berry confit focus. Plenty of attention to detail.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Benchmark South African Sauvignon Blanc from Hannes Storm…

I remember reviewing the delicious 2016 maiden vintage of Wild Air in September 2017, with its wonderful minerality, crystalline purity and old world restraint. (See review here…)

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2016/10/28/yet-another-epic-wine-from-hannes-storm/

The 2017 vintage somehow manages to up the intensity and precision yet another notch to deliver a very special expression of Hemel-En-Aarde Sauvignon Blanc. Track this down from Indigo Wines for summer drinking!

Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, 13 Abv.

Wonderfully dusty mineral aromatics that immediately suggest an accomplished terroir driven wine. There are multiple layers of talcum powder, crushed granite , limestone and green apple pith beautifully interwoven with greengage, Granny Smith pastille fruits and crunchy white pear nuances. The palate is equally grown up and complex, deliciously fresh and concentrated with a long, glycerol finish … but most importantly, very impressive harmony and balance. A really beautiful wine from a fantastic vintage for aromatic whites.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting with Wineanorak’s Jamie Goode and Hannes Storm at last year’s New Wave Tasting in London.

The Alternative Face of Elgin – Tasting the Shannon Vineyards Wines with Co-Owner Stuart Downes…

Elgin is famous for cool climate expressions of both red and white wines. While most producers are focusing on Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, Shannon Vineyards have spent a lot of time and effort fine tuning their Semillon and Merlot, two varieties that have arguably had variable single varietal bottling success in South Africa until more recently. But I think it’s fair to say times have changed and consumers and wine merchants are more sympathetic to these varieties in their different guises.

Brothers Stuart and James Downes are the current owners and their focus has been on producing exceptional fruit from cool mountain hillside vineyards combined with minimal intervention winemaking. Stuart recently passed through London on the way back from the USA and presented his current releases.

Shannon Vineyards Semillon 2015, Elgin, 13.5 Abv.

0.5 Hectares of GD1 Australian Semillon clone with 15 years vine age. Shows real lift, dusty, spicy complexity with cut grass, lemon spice, crushed gravel, rain on dry grey slate petrichor characteristics. Definite herbaceous pyrazine hint but deliciously balanced by bright, creamy, ultra fresh yellow fruits, white citrus and a mouth watering grassy, piquant finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Shannon Vineyards Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Elgin, 13 Abv

Bright fragrant notes of cut grass, stable straw, pithy yellow citrus, white pepper and crushed gooseberries. Acids are tart, crystalline and bright with spicy green apple, crunchy tart peach and lemon grass notes. Fresh, laser like focus and tension. Great example of cool climate Sauvignon.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Shannon Vineyards Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir 2014, Elgin, 13 Abv.

Using 667 & 777 clones, also 115 & 113. Dusty, sappy, spicy, cedary aromatic profile with notes of crushed gravel and subtle smokey charcoal embers. Palate is sleek, elegant, light weight but retains a fleshy red cherry and sappy bramble berry concentration with hints of Asian spices. Quite a subtle feminine style with a complexing white truffle earthiness on the finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Shannon Vineyards Merlot 2015, Elgin, 14 Abv.

Dark, warming, enticing nose of black damson plums, cut grass, black berry and baking spice herbaceousness with a dusting of milk chocolate gloss. Palate is soft and fruit driven with hints of mint leaf, supple creamy black brambly fruits, cedar spice and an overlay of graphite minerality. Fleshy and plummy, accessible and supple style.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Shannon Vineyards Mount Bullet Merlot 2013, Elgin, 14 Abv.

On average 22 months in barrel with a low 3.2 pH. Rich complex blend of 5 Merlot clones, 2 French and 3 Italian. Plush, restrained and very classical profile with black cherry, creamy black plum, cinnamon biscuits and an attractive sappy spice. Beautifully fleshy and sleek textured with incredibly bright cherry acids, black cherry spice, liquorice and a real Italian Tuscan feel. Fine precision, some tension and tautness, finishing with an alluring red cranberry and dusty graphite complexity. A rare distinguished example of one of the Cape’s most difficult grapes to master.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Benchmark Cool Climate Constantia – Tasting Boela Gerber’s Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve White 2017…

One of the classic blends of the Constantia Valley made by one of its best Winemakers. Boela Gerber is the consummate winemaker’s winemaker… now also the current Chairman of the Cape Winemakers Guild.

This is always one of Boela’s pride and joy wines, the quintessential cool climate, pithy, grassy Sauvignon / Semillon blend. True to form, the nose bristles with sweet lemon grass, wet straw, salty brine and crunchy white peach nuances. An excellent white vintage in the Cape, the 2017 affords Constantia whites an impressive herbaceous depth of cut grass, dusty, herby capsicum, Cape gooseberry complexity and a bright, crunchy yellow orchard fruit length. A really fine aromatic vintage for whites and Boela delivers here once again. Drink now or cellar past 2030+

Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)