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Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
While "klein" means "small," Klein Constantia’s reputation is anything but. With its historic Cape Dutch homestead and breathtaking location, it has frequently been described as one of the world’s most beautiful vineyards. In 2002, Wine and Spirits Magazine named Klein Constantia among the Top 25 Vineyards of the World. During the 18th and 19th centuries, "the sweet, luscious, and excellent wine called Constantia" became one of the most legendary and sought-after wines in the world. Prized by kings, emperors, and nobles, the iconic bottling could be found in the cellars of many of the courts of Europe. Napoleon consumed a bottle of Constantia each day during his exile on St. Helena, and the fabled elixir was immortalized in the works of Baudelaire, Charles Dickens, and Jane Austen.
After phylloxera devastated the vineyards of Constantia at the end of the 19th century, Klein Constantia fell into disrepair. In 1980, the run-down farm was purchased by Duggie Jooste, whose family had been involved in the South African wine trade for four generations. Duggie and his son Lowell began to revitalize the farm and using vines propagated from the original vineyard stock, they sought to revive the glorious Constantia wine of yore.
The cellar is headed by the energetic young Adam Mason, a Stellenbosch graduate who gained significant winemaking experience in France before joining Klein Constantia in 2004. The recreated "Vin de Constance" remains the estate’s crown jewel. Over the past two decades, the dazzling nectar has received immense critical acclaim and has become a modern-day legend in its own right.
With an important wine renaissance is in full swing, impressive red and white bargains abound in South Africa. The country has a particularly long and rich history with winemaking, especially considering its status as part of the “New World.” In the mid-17th century, the lusciously sweet dessert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Since then, the South African wine industry has experienced some setbacks due to the phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s and political difficulties throughout the following century.
Today, however, South Africa is increasingly responsible for high-demand, high-quality wines—a blessing to put the country back on the international wine map. Wine production is mainly situated around Cape Town, where the climate is generally warm to hot. But the Benguela Current from Antarctica provides brisk ocean breezes necessary for steady ripening of grapes. Similarly, cooler, high-elevation vineyard sites throughout South Africa offer similar, favorable growing conditions.
South Africa’s wine zones are divided into region, then smaller districts and finally wards, but the country’s wine styles are differentiated more by grape variety than by region. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is the country’s “signature” grape, responsible for red-fruit-driven, spicy, earthy reds. When Pinotage is blended with other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir (all commonly vinified alone as well), it is often labeled as a “Cape Blend.” Chenin Blanc (locally known as “Steen”) dominates white wine production, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc following close behind.
A crisp, refreshing variety that equally reflects both terroir and varietal character, Sauvignon blanc is responsible for a vast array of wine styles. However, a couple of commonalities always exist—namely, zesty acidity and intense aromatics. The variety is of French provenance, and is most important in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. It also shines in New Zealand, California, Australia and parts of northeastern Italy. Chile and South Africa are excellent sources of high-quality, value-priced Sauvignon blanc.
In the Glass
From its homeland In Bordeaux, winemakers prefer to blend it with Sémillon to produce a softer, richer style. In the Loire Valley, it expresses citrus, flint and smoky flavors, especially from in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Marlborough, New Zealand often produces a pungent and racy version, reminiscent of cut grass, gooseberry and grapefruit. California's style is fruit-driven, in either a soft and oak-aged or snappy and fresh version.
The freshness of Sauvignon blanc’s flavor lends it to a range of light, summery dishes including salad, seafood and mild Asian cuisine. Sauvignon Blanc settles in comfortably at the table with notoriously difficult foods like artichokes or asparagus. When combined with Sémillon (and perhaps some oak), it matches well with complex seafood and chicken dishes.
Along with Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon blanc is a proud parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. That green bell pepper aroma that all three varieties share is no coincidence—it comes from a high concentration of pyrazines (herbaceous aromatic compounds) inherent to each member of the family.