HIGH CONSTANTIA WINE CELLAR
Wednesday 5 July 2017
I have always wanted to bring my partner to High Constantia since I first visited in February. There are few wine farms or estates I have returned to yet, preferring to explore anew. There’s so much choice in the Western Cape. When I think of it, High Constantia is the first cellar I have returned to for tasting only (they don’t serve snacks but I was able to take my own). I have been back to 2 other vineyards – Waverley Hills and Oak Valley – but they were either for a meal or for a meal and tasting.
High Constantia is so easy to miss on the right hand side of the road leading to Groot Constantia. As I wrote before, whilst unassuming from the road, it has a delightful stoep overlooking a lake and old nunnery building at the rear. Entry is via the working cellar. The staff were labelling MCC and other wines as I arrived.
Sanneline greeted me again and looked after us well. I had tasted on reds before due to the time of year and so was excited to sample the MCC and Sauvignon Blanc. The MCC was worth waiting for and my favourite wine. Served at just the right temperature (as all the wines were for the tasting), the fine bubbles continuously rose from the medium gold wine in the glass. Apple fruity and orange blossom aromas melted into delicious dry, toasty apple flavours on the palate. This was an MCC to drink much more of and enjoy.
It was only this morning that I read an article about how wooded Sauvignon Blanc are set to re-emerge. Blanc Fumé was briefly popular in the late-1990s and early-2000s. Graves in Bordeaux typically blends Sémillon Blanc with Sauvignon Blanc, as some South African producers do. Nonetheless, the Bordeaux White blends remain unpopular. Wooded Sauvignon Blanc (or Sauvignon Blanc with up to 15% added Sémillon) allows the winemaker to add extra complexity. It remains very at much experimental stage and with a very small handful of producers making it in South Africa.
It was therefore an amazing confidence to be offered the wooded Cielo Nel Capo Reserve Sauvignon Blanc for the second tasting wine. The wine matures for 9 months in acacia and oak barrels. It was a typical watery green, straw colour in appearance, perhaps a little deeper than usual. I spent a while trying to describe the aromas and flavours. These were a combination of green melon, kiwi, and chalky citrus with a delicate wood flavour on the palate. There was a sweetness I had not tasted before that must have come from the acacia. I liked it and bought a bottle.
I tasted the Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot before. These are decent quality wines, with a price to match, and ones that will keep. I was interested to see how my tasting scores compared and especially so since I was still quite new to scoring in early February. I scored the Cabernet Franc and Merlot the same but marginally improved that for the Cabernet Sauvignon on second tasting.
The final 2 wines were a treat to compare. The 2007 Sebastiaan Bordeaux Blend had since been released and there was stock remaining of the 2006 vintage. The wines differed primarily in the 20% of minority cultivars and, of course, year. I rated both equally but they were not the same. The 2006 wine had a more grippy tannin while the 2007 vintage was softer on the palate with warmer, fruitier, aromatic flavours. I was intrigued to read after that 2006 was characterised by fleshier, mild tannined reds. 2007 red wines are known for having more intense colour and fruit concentration.
High Constantia is well worth a visit. Sanneline is polite and knowledgeable and a good tasting host. There’s rarely more than half a dozen wines to taste, depending on time of year, and I paid extra (R70) for the MCC. It is rare too to be able to taste 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages at a regular tasting too. One can therefore choose to make a brief tasting stop or to linger for longer. I highly recommend. Whichever you choose, you will not be disappointed.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2013 Clos Andre Brut MCC (70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir) – R350 FAVOURITE WINE
2015 Cielo Nel Capo Reserve Sauvignon Blanc – R215*
2011 Cabernet Franc – R275 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – R235
2008 Merlot – R235
2006 Sebastiaan (45% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec) – R350
2007 Sebastiaan (43% Cabernet Franc, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 8% Malbec, 2% Merlot) – R350