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)

One Of Bordeaux’s Best Kept Secrets ~ The Elusive Dry White Wines of the Medoc…

Interestingly, if you ask most people what they think of Bordeaux Blanc dry whites, anecdotally, the majority will probably tell you they have never bought or drunk one knowingly. Quite surprising really when you think how mainstream Sauvignon Blanc is or even Sauvignon / Semillon blends from other wine regions around the world.

The French realised a long time ago that premium Bordeaux appellations actually have a lot of wine to sell and perhaps it’s not the best idea to confuse the consumer and distract their purchasing power away from red Bordeaux and sweet white Sauternes style wines. Other than a few “lesser” regarded appellations like Entre-Deux-Mers, most sub-regions of Bordeaux produce very little premium dry white other than perhaps Pessac-Leognan and the Graves.

So every moment I get to drink a top dry white Bordeaux, I savour the opportunity and revel in the wines’ utter deliciousness and relative obscurity. Tonight was one such moment. Sadly for enthusiasts, this obscurity does not equal lower prices. The Bordelaise are too savvy for that!

Cos d’Estournel Blanc 2012, AOC Bordeaux, 13.5 Abv.

White Bordeaux can certainly be one of the most delicious white wines produced. This Cos Blanc, made from 77% Sauvignon Blanc and 23% Semillon cropped at 25 hl/ha from the Northern Medoc, shows impressive pedigree with a lifted aromatic nose of white blossom, lemon and lime cordial, vanilla essence, green gauge, waxy yellow apples, tangerine peel, and a subtle earthy root veg note. The aromas melt away into one another and reveal just a modest lick of creamy, buttery oak spice. The palate is full, round and fleshy but also saline and pithy, showing wonderful texture, depth of fruit and crunchy acids. Not necessarily the most complex of wines, but then even this 2012 should be regarded as a baby in nappies still. An opulent style, the wine finishes with lovely yellow grapefruit, a honeyed balance, some dusty crushed gravel minerality and again more pithy, zesty, white pepper and coriander spice on the opulent finish. Drink now to 2025+

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

Even Little Unicorns Grow Up One Day ~ Tasting the New Release Ornellaia Bianco 2015 Release…

I have always been a big lover of the exceptional wines of Ornellaia. Their reds offer such delicious opulence, intensity and complexity in youth and with age, while their resurrected whites have titillated the fine wine market and earned this beautiful Bolgheri estate a host of new converts.


I guess for me, it all started in 2010 when I bought the new recreation of a Bolgheri white classic under the Poggio alle Gazze label. Usually a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Petit Manseng and Vermentino blend, the Poggio label acted as a laboratory for the estate to find and vinify the finest white wine parcels that demonstrate their capacity to express the unique character of Ornellaia’s terroir.


In 2013, winemaker Axel Heinz felt confident enough to select parcels of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier to create the estate’s first Ornellaia bianco. A 70/30 blend led by Sauvignon Blanc, this wine birthed a new unicorn wine in Italy and the demand has grown ever since. In the summer of 2017, retailers, including myself, were inundated with allocation requests from wine suppliers to super yachts on the Med for Ornellaia Bianco, the oligarchs chosen summer wine of choice.


Of course this phenomena was a simple reflection of absolute scarcity and sublime quality, not marketing prowess. But needless to say, the birth of the 2015 vintage was highly anticipated. 2015 was a text book vintage after a standard winter. July proved to be very hot and dry with temperatures over 30 degrees C every day of the month. With fears of an early, problematic vintage rising, rain arrived on the 10th August to unblock ripening and healthy white grapes were eventually harvested in the last week of August.


Ornellaia Bianco 2015, IGT Toscana, Bolgheri, 13.5 Abv.

The produce of north facing vineyards planted on sandy clay-rich soils, the 2015 harvest represents an almost perfect vintage. The wine shows a defined mineral laden expression, with crushed granite and wet river pebbles, and plenty of black currant leaf, tart gooseberry, green apple and tart pineapple pastille fruit precision. There are also ample herbal notes punctuated by saffron, dried mint leaf and baking herb spices. The palate is taught and crisp with intense concentration of waxy green apples, cassis, greengage, and boiled green apple bon bons with just an ever so slight lick of honey. The finish is bold, bright and beautifully saline, leaving the wine to impose a thoroughly mineral, “Pouilly Fume’esque” minerality footprint. At 100% Sauvignon Blanc in this vintage, there are ample reminders of the finest Bordeaux whites, which suggests this vintage will age comfortably for 12 to 15+ years. 

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

The True Brilliance of Winemaker Duncan Savage Revealed in His Savage White Blend 2015…

On the eve of the imminent arrival of the 2016 Savage White Blend in the UK, I had the opportunity to present the iconic 2015 White Blend to 25 management consultants at the offices of Boston Consulting Group last night. It went down a storm. In fact, it was so good I bought another bottle to drink at home tonight with my Sicilian style herbed pork caponata. 


Savage White Blend 2015, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

There is no doubt that Duncan Savage is one of the best white wine winemakers in South Africa. His track record speaks for itself. Taming Sauvignon Blanc and more so, Semillon, from cool climate sites on the peninsula, has revealed the real potential of these varietals in a blend to a whole new generation of winemakers and consumers. The 2015 however, was one of Duncan’s most anticipated releases with the vintage lauded as possibly the best ever in SA for red and white wines. This Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon based blend incorporates small amounts of Clairette Blanche and Chenin Blanc this vintage. This slightly bigger blend perhaps explains the wines broader aromatic profile. There is still the dusty lemon and herb spice, yellow grapefruit and lime peel freshness, but also extra notes of white pear, white pepper, white crunchy peaches and green apple zest. Once again, the pithy minerality of crushed gravel underpins both the nose and palate and there’s an almost German, Pfalz-like strawberries and vanilla ice cream exotism in play. The palate is bold, intense and concentrated with pithy gravelly notes balanced by massive fruit concentration and length. The vintage’s sublime quality is indeed standing up to be counted! Duncan has perfectly captured the essence of 2015’s greatness. But the wine remains classical, measured, restrained and fresh and finally unlocks its hallmark lemon and pineapple pastille fruit character on the long, intense finish. This is a truly grand expression, a wine that will demand its place in your cellar. Could this be Duncan’s greatest white expression to date? Drink now to 2028+ 

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