Klein Constantia Vin de Constance (500ML) 2013
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Described as one of the world’s most beautiful vineyards, Klein Constantia is set amidst ancient trees and lush greenery on the upper foothills of the Constantiaberg, with superb views across the Constantia Valley and False Bay. The 360-acre (146-hectare) 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. Klein Constantia’s lusciously sweet wine, Vin de Constance, rose to prominence in the 1800s. It was savored by the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte, Queen Victoria, and Thomas Jefferson, and it found its way into the writing of many great 18th and 19th century authors. Unfortunately, its production ceased in the mid-19th century when odium infected the vineyards, only to be followed by the arrival of phylloxera. After many years of research and consultation by some of South Africa’s top historians and viticulturists, the wine was resurrected in 1986 to almost instant acclaim and has enjoyed top accolades ever since. Today, Klein Constantia continues to make some of South Africa’s top wines and world-class dessert wines, which reflect the cool Constantia climate and historic traditions. The concept of terroir has a strong influence on the character of wine produced at Klein Constantia, with soil and climatic conditions ideal for producing grapes with ample fruit flavors. Situated between 230 and 1,125 feet (70 and 343 meters) above sea level with a constant sea breeze above 490 feet (150 meters), temperatures remain cool, preserving the fruit during ripening. With the ocean a mere 6 miles (10 kilometers) away, the wind plays an important factor too, often stressing the vineyard and resulting in an increase in concentration and flavor. Part of South Africa’s Constantia Wine Route, the farm is situated on the eastern slopes and foothills of Constantiaberg, with 90% of the property south to east facing. The higher slopes are some of the colder slopes in the Cape, with fewer sunlight hours and lower temperatures, ideal for preserving the acidity and pH of white varieties, especially Sauvignon Blanc. Klein Constantia is custodian to some of the most historic vineyards in South Africa and, indeed, the world. The unique location, climate, and soils of the estate call for making terroirdriven wine. Simple winemaking techniques are used to extract the best from grapes grown in expertly nurtured vineyards in the aim of producing wines of high quality that express elements of elegance, minerality, and balance. As a BWI champion (Biodiversity in Wine Initiative), the vision is aligned with that of the World Wildlife Fund as Klein Constantia aims to unite conservation and agricultural development in a complementary, mutually beneficial manner. Klein Constantia continually strives to produce wines in more environmentally responsible and biodynamic ways.
With an important wine renaissance 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.
Apart from the classics, we find many regional gems of different styles.
Late harvest wines are probably the easiest to understand. Grapes are picked so late that the sugars build up and residual sugar remains after the fermentation process. Ice wine, a style founded in Germany and there referred to as eiswein, is an extreme late harvest wine, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. It is becoming a specialty of Canada as well, where it takes on the English name of ice wine.
Vin Santo, literally “holy wine,” is a Tuscan sweet wine made from drying the local white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia in the winery and not pressing until somewhere between November and March.