As we head into another Cape Town winter, we anticipate that perfect glass of red wine before a crackling fire; paired with a delicious roast dinner and accompanied by rustic country vegetables and crème brulee dessert. Most who visit us know that our home property is nestled at the heart of the Constantia Valley, the perfect place for an evolving and adventurous wine palate to take flight. Hence, we give you The Last Word Intimate Hotels’ Constantia Good Wine Awards; an indulgence and opinion:
Although we’ve pledged allegiance to the reds to warm our hearts this winter, we’re still willing to cheat with some white and believe that the Constantia Valley is a world class contestant in this realm of viticulture. The gentle, cool breezes and rainy Mediterranean climate of the Western Cape are supreme in the region and provide an unparalleled freshness during early morning harvests, perfect for its renowned sauvignon blanc and Semillon varietals. Our favourite sauvignon blanc:
THE BLACK SWAN SAUVIGNON BLANC
Remaining true to its name, this wine is still regarded as an absolute anomaly in the Constantia sauvignon blanc trade. Yielding aromas of white citrus blossom, lime, sweet lemon peel, melon, nettles and a characteristic Constantia minerality on the nose, its perfume is outstanding and acidity well matched by its round, pearlescent palate. Surprisingly, the wine spends no time in barrel, yet boasts a beautiful honey blonde colour and undergoes extensive lees contact in cold stainless steel where an aromatic yeast births its nuances after eight regular months of stirring. Steenberg selects the finest grapes on their estate for what can only be described as their premier sauvignon blanc.
We love its smoky fragrance on approach (delivered by eighteen hours of skin contact prior to fermentation) as well as its bright acidity and full-bodied mouth feel. Visit Steenberg’s illustrious tasting room and opt for their Flagship tasting to sample this delicacy or purchase it at cellar door price of R180.00 a bottle.
Another gorgeous white from the ultra-premium range at Steenberg is their 2011 Semillon, still in store despite its 2014 successor.
Feeling a little adventurous, we hopped across the valley for our favourite Semillon from another estate.
SEMILLON | 2014
Receiving five stars from us and from Platters South African Wine Guide, the Uitsig Semillon is in a class of its own. Exuding connotations of lime candy, key limes, tangerine and bees’ wax, the wine is ripe, riveting and less earthy than its predecessors, and Steenberg’s own, yet this subtlety is what sets it apart.
Spending seven months in a low percentage of new oak and majority second and third fill French oak barrels of customary five hundred and six hundred litres, the wine shows complexity through ripened fruit-forward flavours. Post fermentation, it is aged for a further twelve months in bottle; to develop secondary characteristics that surely achieve its accolade. Not unlike the Black Swan, this Semillon undergoes regular batonage (lees stirring) to develop its fuller mouth feel while an unusual yet complimentary lanolin finish rounds off the journey.
Runners up to these two white pearls include Buitenverwachting’s Husseys Vlei Sauvignon Blanc (2013) and High Constantia’s Silverhurst Sauvignon (2010).
2016 Platters gave this wine four and a half stars and we thought we’d be fair and give it five. A beautiful, dark crimson blend of 40% Petit Verdot, 25% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 15% Malbec and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, Glen Five sports nuances of ripe black cherries, allspice and crème de cassis which develop aromatically once the wine is decanted.
Bold, consistent tannins take centre stage and are complimented by a unique freshness and longevity, brought forth by the cool 2009 harvest conditions. The wine spent a total of eighteen months in 100% new oak (225L barrels) and was only released after three years of secondary bottle maturation. Glen insists that oven roasted quail, coal-smoked fillet or rosemary salted lamb chops are the best pairing choices for their wine. We can’t think of anything more heart-warming.
CATHARINA | 2014
An annual celebration of the finest French red barrels and vintages on the estate, the Catharina Red Blend stands as Steenberg Vineyards’ flagship red blend. Praised in 2011 as an unparalleled gem, Catharina continues to delight in 2014. Comprised of 68% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Shiraz, the wine exhibits a brilliant ruby colour with a robust bouquet of black olives, dried fynbos, mint, cloves and cardamom. Dark cherries and mulberries ripen at finish and will continue to pronounce their elegance with a ten-year bottle maturation.
Named after the illustrious German founder of the estate, the wine has become a beacon of historical excellence on the farm and in the cellar. The winemaker JD Pretorius was crowned Diners Club’s Young Winemaker of the Year for the vintage. We love this wine for the unmistakeable crème de cassis en bouche and inviting cigar smoke en bouquet.
SEBASTIAAN | 2006
Benefiting enormously from a long, cool growing season, Sebastiaan, like Catharina, offers a delicate palate of cassis and dark cherry fruits. Tobacco leaf and mild mint are exuded en bouquet along with a cinnamon-clove spice, accented by notes of toasty earth and aged leather. The wine is a beautiful blend of 45% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot 8% Petit Verdot and a slight 2% Malbec.
The majority of the fruit is fermented in small open stainless steel tanks, thereafter transferred into new and second fill French oak barrels where malolactic conversion softens acidity and rounds off velvety tannins as desired. Despite its harvest in 2006, the wine was only bottled in December of 2008 and continues to astound eight years later.
We consider this blend, the quintessential High Constantia red.
GOUVERNEURS RESERVE | 2012
Another signature and unmissable red blend presents itself in the form of Groot Constantia’s Gouverneurs Reserve. Yielding those trademark cherry, blackberry and cigar-box nuances, the wine also delivers hints of plum and black pepper upon finish. Winemaker, Boela Gerber suggests a truly South African roast leg of Springbok, studded with bacon to pair and we’re not arguing. Any international guest to the Constantia Valley would jump at the opportunity to pair such a riveting wine with a local banquet of the nature.
In the bottle you’ll experience 44% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Franc, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot where exquisite merlot driven smoothness meets equal weight and velvet from the participating cultivars.
SHIRAZ | 2013
In our opinion, this wine is by far the best shiraz that the Constantia Valley has to offer; despite stiff competition from surrounding estates. A pristine, boutique family owned vineyard, Eagle’s Nest is the new kid on the block that has gained a reputation for its acclaimed wines and atmospheric beauty.
The 2012 vintage received five stars in the 2016 Platters South African Wine Guide as well as a Double Gold Veritas Award for excellence. 2013 is upholding the legacy. Spending a lengthily twenty months in French Oak barrels, the wine displays a refreshing and lively purple hue while aromas of bramble leaf, crushed red pepper and violets permeate the nose and a creamy mouth filling tannin boasts a quintessential white pepper palate.
There you have it folks. Our 2016 Constantia Good Wine choices.
These are by no means the only options in the valley. If you’re feeling adventurous, you’ll need a couple of days to visit all of the farms and sample their unique red and white wine offerings.
The Constantia bubblies are also highly acclaimed.
Drinking your favourite wine should be an intimate, luxury experience. And we’re all about those after all…