Tuesday, October 04, 2016

A vertical tasting at Constantia Glen

The small range of wines from Constantia Glen is named by numbers, except the Sauvignon Blanc (which could be called One!). The numbers denote the sum of the parts. Two is a white Bordeaux blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, 3 is a red Bordeaux blend of 3 varietals: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc; and Five, another Bordeaux blend with all 5 Bordeaux varietals. They are classy wines, winning awards and scoring very highly in Platter and with other wine commentators. And, it must be said, the farm has some of the best views in the Cape. We were invited to a vertical tasting there, followed by a casual lunch. We were not disappointed
The tasting room had been commandeered for the function and customers were accommodated in the restaurant area. We were grateful as it was a typical spring day, blustery, sunny, chilly, even drizzle at one point
Sales Manager Gus Allen welcomed us
He told us the wines are evolving. The vineyard was only established in 2000 by the owners the Waibel family who recognised it's potential. It is winemaker Justin van Wyk's 9th vintage, with Megan van der Merwe joining him as Assistant winemaker for the last two vintages. The farm manager Etienne Southey has been there for four years
We drank the new 2016 Sauvignon Blanc on arrival, which has not yet been released. This was its first showing to the media. It was bottled in July. Grassy green with light pyrazines on the nose, it is crisp, lively, full of gooseberry and lime, with good elegance and needs time to settle
These were the wines we were to taste
Justin van Wyk took us through the tasting. The first planting of vines followed the horrendous December 1999 forest fires which affected the farm badly, as it swept over the Constantia Nek and took away everything in its path. The Bishops boarding house boys came to help fight the fire and Justin was among them, he was then in Grade 8. Now he makes the wines, having earned his degree in wine. Planting took place in 2000 and 2001 with one varietal in 2002. Very little Sauvignon Blanc was planted then, but soon they saw how well it produced in Constantia so, in 2005/6, many vines were re-grafted with it. It does well in the teeth of the cold South Easter at the height of the farm. It is a Bordeaux varietal focused farm and only grows those varietals. 75% of which are red. Because the farm is so high up the mountain, they get 2 hours more sunlight than the rest of Constantia
We began with 2011 Three. Classic perfume of violets, cassis and vanilla on the nose, so attractive and enticing. Soft chalky tannins, warm spicy alcohols, a good fruit driven wine, cassis, plums, soft but full, this will last for several years. Next the2012 Three. It has a similar nose, just more integrated. Cherries and berries on the palate, less Cabernet visible, not as soft and yielding with lots of tannins to hold it together. A cool year with late picking. 2013 Three has cherries again, with wood smoke whiffs. Sweet and sour cherries, very chalky tannins and then it opens up to cherry sweets, nice length, good minerality but needs time. (60% Merlot)
Assistant winemaker Megan van der Merwe and farm manager Etienne Southey
Then on to the Five. 2010 is dark with plum edges, Intense fruit with coffee on the nose. Gorgeous fruit and some umami on the palate, soft sweet ripe berries and cherries layered with tense tannins and choc coffee wood and a long end. 2011 Cassis, incense oak and pine nuts. Velvet chalky tannins, soft berry fruit with length. It keeps opening up showing more intensity and fruit and lots of elegance. Lynne's top scoring wine at 18.5. 2012 has jasmine, honey suckle, incense wood and hints of marjoram on the nose. Warm alcohols, soft chalky tannins cassis, morello cherries, less wood than 2011 and a little greenness. Still to come
Then for the white Bordeaux Blend, Two. 2013 has the classic oily mutton fat typical with semillon, olive richness, perfume of melon and white grapes. A round mouth of elderflower, honeysuckle, sweet fruit with lime acidity and warm alcohol, and a long finish. No oak visible. A begging for food wine. 2014 Grapey Hanepoot nose with some herbs. Its fizzy, spritzy almost Muscat d Alexandria spicy with good acidity and sweet white grape fruit. 2015 has a tighter nose, with lees, herbs, sweet fruit and incense hints. It is ethereal, more elegant. Similar on the palate with the Muscat spicy notes, nice mutton fat feel, but little Sauvignon Blanc character. Honey botrytis notes too. So popular it is already sold out! Our favourite too
A view looking in
Lunch was platters: hams, cheese olives and bread, for which they are famous.
The smoked salmon platter was very popular
as was the biltong and droëwors platter. We shared them all
All slipped down very easily with the Constantia Glen wines

The terrace with its superb mountain views. A great tasting
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016
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