An exploration of wine

Klein Constantia: stellar whites, sweet and dry

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Klein Constantia panorama

Klein Constantia estate vineyards face east to south-east

Klein Constantia is perhaps the most recognised name in the Constantia region. That is particularly as a result of their rejuvenation of the historic sweet wine for which Constantia was famous: Vin de Constance. Though others have followed suit, it is Vin de Constance that steals the international limelight.

However, as I discovered visiting the estate in 2015, and talking with young winemaker, Matt Day, and cellar door manager Alan Wickstrom, they are achieving excellence with dry whites too.

Klein Constantia MCC tasting

Discussing the estate with Alan Wickstrom over a glass of MCC

They believe Sauvignon Blanc is particularly well-suited to the Atlantic-cooled climate of Constantia and are committed to becoming known as much for distinctive Sauvignons as for Vin de Constance. That was backed up by vertical masterclasses in 2018, on Vin de Constance then Sauvignon Blanc a couple of days later.

Reds are also made primarily at another estate, Anwilka, better suited to red grapes, though there is a Bordeaux blend, Klein Constantia Estate Red. The Anwilka estate was merged with Klein Constantia in 2012.

 

Some brief history

Klein Constantia is but a fragment of the original Constantia estate. That – all 1,500Ha of it – was founded in 1685 by Simon van der Stel, then the Cape Governor. Other fragments are represented today by neighbouring estates like Groot Constantia and Buitenwervachting.

Constance sweet wines first appeared in the mid-18th Century and made the name of the region, because its sweetness meant it could be shipped. It was thence drunk in European markets, becoming the most sought-after wine in the world. Napoleon had 36L wine a month to drink, of which 10L was sweet wine of Constantia.

However, 1885 was the last vintage in the Cape from the Constantia region. Successive disease and economic disasters struck: Oïdium (powdery mildew), then Phylloxera, then the abolition of slavery (obviously not a disaster in all other ways!), and finally a British free trade agreement with France.

Fast-forward to 1980 and the Klein Constantia estate was bought by the Jooste family for ZAR1m (c. £60,000), and reinstated. The family were the pioneers of Sauvignon Blanc in South Africa. They were then approached by a local winemaking Professor, Chris Orferr of Stellenbosch University, to recreate the sweet wine.

The team sought out planting material from around the valley to replant Frontignan – Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. The first vintage of new Vin de Constance was 1986 and after that time, during Apartheid, it was only distributed through the South African embassy.

In 2008, Matt joined Klein Constantia under then-winemaker Adam Mason. However, the Jooste family sold the farm in 2011 to US investor Zdenĕk Bakala and Charles Harman from the UK, joined after the Anwilka merger by Bordeaux luminaries Hubert de Boüard of Angelus and Bruno Prats, ex-Cos d’Estournel.

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance presentation

Matt delivering an engaging and entertaining overview of Klein Constantia at 67 Pall Mall

At that point, Adam left and Matt was asked to take over winemaking – a big task for a young guy, but which the wines today demonstrate he has done with panache. And, as Matt demonstrated leading the vertical tasting of Vin de Constance, he also does with honesty, pragmatism and good humour too.

2012 was Matt’s first full vintage from growing the grapes to making the finished blends, though he did blend and finish the Vin de Constance vintages, back to 2007, that we tasted in a vertical masterclass of Vin de Constance for 67 Pall Mall members in the middle of 2018.

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance wines

Vin de Constance vertical masterclass wines

That vertical tasting finished with tasting tank samples of blending components of the 2015, as well as the just-bottled final blend. That demonstrated how blending can create something greater than the sum of its parts (admittedly including 15% of 2016).

I then joined the official release event for the 2015 in September 2018, held in Berry Bros newly-refurbished, smartly-appointed, Sussex Cellar:

Berry Bros Sussex Cellar

Berry Bros’ new Sussex Cellar, set up for the 2015 launch

Matt Day Klein Constantia

Matt Day, with co-owner, Charles Harman, preparing for the launch

There, Matt again took us through tasting tank samples of the blending components I6, I7 and I8. Not only that, but also we were able to taste the 2018 green harvest wine, to appreciate what that brings, as well as the 2015 Essentia fraction.

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015 launch

Vin de Constance 2015 launch tasting, including the first ever showing of Essentia

Finally, I could then see how the 2015 is getting on after settling down, post-bottling. Having scored it 17.5 / 20 just after bottling, its period of settling has added +0.5-1 point. I scored it 18.5 / 20. By way of consistency checking, I scored the 2012 also tasted at each event 17.5 / 20 both times, without any cross-referencing. Both sets of tasting notes are shown below.

Today, the estate has two goals: making great Sauvignon Blanc and making a sweet wine that can be considered great at a Global level. Since the estate has international recognition for Vin de Constance, their marketing challenge is to build equal recognition for their range of Sauvignon Blancs.

These are not only Sauvignons for immediate consumption, but also for longer maturation, including a joint venture, Metis, with leading light of Sancerre winemaking, Pascal Jolivet.

Stylistically, these broadly combine relatively ripe fruit and ABV up to 14%, with brisk acidity and freshness. Further, in common with Sauvignon Blancs from other parts of South Africa, there’s a particular fruit aromatic component of Kiwi fruit (Cape gooseberry!) plus boxwood pungency.

It’s a pity that, of the 6 single plot Sauvignons they make, only one – Pardeblokke – is commercially available, since others, especially Block 371, are particularly impressive.

 

The Estate

South Africa has a warm climate but has a few pockets that can deliver cool climate varieties. Constantia, sitting on the Eastern flank of the Table Mountain massif, is cooled by the Atlantic on both sides, around the Cape Point promontory – being 5 and 7km from the vineyards respectively. Soils are 5-600myo decomposed granite, which can give salinity for additional freshness.

Klein Constantia upper Sauvignon Blanc blocks

Klein Constantia’s vineyards stretch up to 320m against the East face of the Constantia massif

Klein Constantia is East to South-east facing, so gets cooler morning Sun, meaning bunches don’t get baked. The estate’s vineyards also reach up to 320m altitude. Because of the profile of sunshine, there can be up to a 3°C temperature reduction per 100m in the region.

Klein Constantia East face

The East-facing sweep down the vineyards towards the winery

This combination of climatic and soil factors means that the c. 80Ha of Klein Constantia under vine is therefore 80% planted with white grapes, and primarily Sauvignon Blanc – though there is some Riesling and Chardonnay too. Vines are planted on 110R and 99R rootstocks.

In a normal year, little irrigation is needed, with 1,600m rain typical. However 2015 was a particularly dry year with just 800mm and was followed by very dry vintages across the Cape in the following 3 years, even in wetter, cooler Constantia. That meant rapid raisining of the Muscats, so total Vin de Constance harvest was just 1.5 months, compared with 2012’s more typical 3 months.

With relatively high rainfall most of the time, €2m was spent on anti-erosion restructuring of paths and soil re-working. Mustard for nitrogen and other sustainable or self-replenishing cover-crops are sown, with just mowing rather than ploughing-back into the soils.

Baboons are also a challenge, as around 460 live in Constantia. Fencing has been put up around the commercial vines, plus a higher altitude vineyard was planted at 350m, beyond the electric fence, solely to give to the baboons so they don’t eat the commercial crop.

Importantly, leafroll has been eliminated from the estate’s vineyards.

Harvest is by hand, with an initial selection in the vineyard, then some table-sorting

 

Sauvignon Blanc

In the vineyard

Sauvignon Blanc is planted at higher altitudes and windier zones, to maximise freshness. In fact, these cool zones are too windy to consider planting Pinot Noir, for example. Metis is their Sauvignon Blanc grown sustainably, though not yet organically grown or certified.

In 2010, the estate as a whole moved away from inorganic farming and a couple of vintages were required for the vineyard to readjust. Overall, yields are lower, but the wines are coming out more characterful.

The 6 single vineyard Sauvignon Blancs are ‘family wines’ only available in the winery, to explore the variation by block, apart from Pardeblokke.

 

In the winery

The cellar was re-adjusted to focus on Sauvignon Blanc (and Vin de Constance), with gentler fruit handling to show the grape’s character, plus temperature and humidity etc. control built-in.

Matt is not comfortable with current winemaking practices for Sauvignon Blanc in the wider world, due to the availability of additives and practices that can be used to make ‘standardised’ Sauvignon Blanc styles. For example, a product exists that can give 10 times the intensity of thiol production during fermentation, for high intensity of passionfruit and other aromas.

Klein is therefore looking to move towards more organic vineyard practices and towards wild yeast and equivalent winemaking, to yield characterful and differentiated Sauvignon Blancs.

Today, almost no SO2 is added at crush and none at all in Metis, where the must is fully-oxygenated. This is based on a principal that working hard to retain volatile thiols through protective, reductive winemaking becomes a problem because these break down within 6 months. That means the resulting wines have low long-term ageing potential.

Instead, greater use is being made of neutral barrels for micro-oxidation, including some acacia, with extended lees contact, to give both better integration of any oak character and longevity for the wine.

Generally, a combination of PVPP, bentonite and isinglass fining is used to clarify and stabilise the wines, without need for filtration.

 

Vin de Constance

In the vineyard

Vin de Constance is only made in good enough years, where healthy grapes have raisined naturally on the vine, and is 99% botrytis-free, with concentration and flavour development solely from raisining. 10-20,000L are produced in such years, with variation depending on how the raisining has progressed.

The wine was made only from Muscat Blanc, although historically Chenin Blanc, Semillon and others were also used, including the red Muscat clone and the red-fleshed variety, Pontac. Now, however, they are starting to incorporate some Chenin and Petit Menseng, to improve the overall quality.

Their Muscat Blanc is all from their own clonal material. Older 31-32 year old vines are trellised, but new plantings are individually staked and tied up until the canes are wooded, then untied to allow the canopy to open naturally to expose the grapes, forming bush vines.

They found that the bilateral cordons of a trellised system tends to shade the grapes too much, resulting in a longer period for raisining, during which time acidity can fall. Bush vines tend to get more continuous dappled-light exposure, so faster raisining. All vines are also leaf-plucked to promote raisining, as well as keeping the grapes dry and healthy.

Most recently, they have isolated 200 vines that produce the best quality of end-wines, then have taken single cells from the genetic material in the flowers of those vines – a method called semantic embryogenesis, which their consulting professor believes is the only way to get virus-free material – and have grown vines to isolate 6 clones. This should ultimately result in a Vin de Constance Muscat clone for long term planting.

 

In the winery

Picking occurs in waves. The first, typically at the end of January is green harvest of just ripe grapes. That’s followed by berry-level selection of perfectly raisined grapes. Raisin-by-raisin selection delivers <10kg per picker per day. They then aim for a roughly 50:50 combination of green and raisined to balance acidity and ripeness.

They also have an Essentia fraction, made in a similar way as Tokaji Essencia, which has intense fruit and over 600 g/L RS. While the Essencia fraction is retained for flavour, it is mostly used to kill fermentation later, by causing a spike in must sugar content, making the yeast go overactive and then die off.

Young Vin de Constance often has a combination of fresh apricot and marmalade or orange peel notes from this blend of green, wine and essencia components. Their target is 14% ABV and 165-175 g/L RS in the finished wine, to give an optimum sugar : alcohol ratio to ensure stability against refermentation. They recently had a bottle of the 1885 vintage tested and it showed c. 185 g/L RS, so slightly sweeter than the modern day target.

Multiple picks and different blocks yields 21-26 batches. These are blended once early on, to reduce the number of lots, then blended again after fermentation and maturation, to get the right ratio for the finished wine. The blending panel comprises the winemaking team and business partners like Hubert de Boüard and Bruno Prats.

Recent historical analysis has also showed that the wines were left on skins after wild ferment, before going into barrels. Skin contact has therefore been incorporated into the winemaking process. Typically, the must sees a 1 week, pre-fermentation, cold maceration. At this time, a non-Saccharomyces yeast is inoculated both to protect against acetic bacteria and to add some complexity.

Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with inoculated yeast, and remains on skins for 2 weeks, post-fermentation. The wine is then pressed to barrel. In 2012, due to rain making the skins soft, pre-ferment maceration was 2 weeks and the wine was pressed immediately after fermentation – taking 2 days to press, as the cap was so mushy.

Each lot is fermented separately, with fermentation allowed to progress and finish without intervention, meaning fermentation times can vary widely – up to 6 months. Working with Stellenbosch University, they have isolated a single strain of vineyard yeast from the Vin de Constance Muscat block, which will hopefully lead to inoculation with that yeast in future.

They work to a 1.2 g/L maximum target for VA, but Muscat can come in at harvest with 0.6-0.8 g/L VA already, so a lot of care is needed to prevent VA spiking. Nutrient addition before fermentation appears to reduce by 0.4 g/L VA, by preventing yeast stress before fermentation starts. They choose not to use DAP as nutrient, but instead use organic nitrogen in the form of amino acids and proteins.

The 2015 vintage was the first Muscat made in the winery, after it was completely rebuilt to focus on making the best Vin de Constance possible. For example, the tanks have large sieves inside to allow pumpovers without too much extraction or oxidation.

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance barrels

Vin de Constance maturing in a mix of barrel sizes and ages

Barrel maturation is a key feature of Vin de Constance, with a substantial proportion of new French oak to give vanilla, cinnamon-clove spice and chocolate complexity that works in harmony with the apricot-marmalade fruit profile. These have normally mainly been 500L, but from 2016, 2,500L foudres will be included in the blend. Lees contact through the maturation period enriches the mid-palate.

Today, blending is focused on enhancing elegance and perfume, by emphasising primary and secondary aromatic profiles. They have therefore reduced barrel ageing from 4.5 to 3 years , thereby reducing tertiary, oxidative development before bottling.

Looking at the blending components for 2015 at its launch event, I6, I7 and I8 were separate tanks, each of which hit their 14% ABV and 165 g/L RS stability ratio. After 6 months’ blending, I6-8 had been done, without perfection, but Matt and the blending team then made a final blend of 40:40:20 from these tanks to create 2015.

I8 differs a little from I6 and I7 in that it had some 2016 in it and a little more new oak. I found I6 to have bold, pure fruit, marked acidity but not so much length, whereas I7 was broader, more restrained, but with markedly more length. I8 carried more richness of body and more notable chocolate-cinnamon and vanilla oak. The final blend brought these elements together to yield a floral-scented, nicely aromatic wine with good freshness and an elegant style.

 

Wines

Klein Constantia wines

Alan with Klein Constantia’s library of wines

The following were tasted at the estate in 2015, at subsequent masterclasses in London in mid-2018 then the 2015 Vin de Constance launch event in September 2018 (and will doubtless be added to over time!). They are ordered in 4 sections: Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Constance, MCC and other whites, and finally red wines.

 

Sauvignon Blanc

Klein Constantia Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (16.5+ / 20)
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 1. Most important wine for the Estate. Block-picking. 70% wild fermentation by block. Blend across 30+ blocks.
A: Pale lemon
N: Vanilla cream. Peach-tropical. Subtle spice. Weighty. Some boxwood
P: Mid-weight. Brisk not crisp acidity. Salinity. Spicy mid-palate. Good length

Klein Constantia Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015 [tank sample] (16 / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. Due for bottling. Selected yeast. Bentonite fining.
A: Pale lemon
N: Delicate toast, some rich tropical and citrus.
P: Green melon, some lees richness then marked salinity

Klein Constantia Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (16 / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. 120-140,000 bottles.
A: Very pale lemon
N: Semi-aromatic. Savoury touch of toast. Lees. A bit closed. Some boxwood. Grapefruit lemon peel
P: Some delicacy, then grippy grapefruit. Mineral. Salty. Moderately alcoholic. Long-ish

Glen Dirk 2016 (17+ / 20)
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 2. Acacia oak. Tiny production on separate, managed vineyard, with a flatter, South-facing slope.
A: Pale lemony green
N: Creamy vanilla. Some guava and lime. Dusty mineral. Cinnamon oak
P: Vibrant acidity. Kiwi and guava. Lime fruit. Spicy mid-palate with creamy oak finish

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc Metis 2015 [tank sample] (17 / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. With Pascal Jolivet. Natural yeast. Held on skins until fermentation starts. Minimal SO2.
A: Pale lemon
N: Flinty / smoky. Hint of asparagus, some citrus
P: Smoky. Some tannin, grapefruit and mineral. Salty. Long

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc Metis 2014 (17 / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015.
A: Pale lemon
N: Broad, creamy entry. Hint of oak meal. Some brightness of tropical notes over spicy boxwood
P: Smoky, stony mineral. Blackcurrant leaf hint. Grapefruit pith touch. Savoury. Chewy. Chalky

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc Metis 2013 (16 / 20)
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 3. JV with Pascal Jolivet. Wild fermentation with dirty juice. But not natural – SO2 at bottling. Key to a natural-like wine is using technology to keep fermentation working properly and ensure neither reduction or oxidation. 12 months on lees.
A: Pale lemon
N: Gooseberry and kiwi. Subtle boxwood and dusty mineral. Smoky-spicy
P: Boxwood and kiwi fruit. Spice. Sweaty. Medium-full length. Brisk acidity

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc Metis 2013 (16 / 20) [????????]
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 4. Wild yeast fermentation.
A: Pale lemon
N: Boxwood and toast. Some garrigue. Subtle background oak? Or just wild yeast-type toasty overtone?
P: Moderately bright acidity. More saline than crisp. Full and weighty – lees presence. Medium-long, warming finish

Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2017 (16.5 / 20)
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 5.
A: Very pale gold
N: Slight tinned pea to ripe fruit. Marked boxwood over mint and tinned pea. Dusty, stony mineral. Savoury and tight
P: Crisp acidity. Lively and vibrant. Spice. Boxwood. Gooseberry and kiwi. Not so long

Pascal Jolivet Indogène Pouilly-Fumé 2016 (16.5 / 20)
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 6. More silex soils, giving extra flintiness
A: Pale lemon
N: Sweaty kiwi fruit. Marked kiwi. Some lime. Grapefruit peel. Flinty-smoky
P: Sweaty grapefruit. Brisk kiwi acidity. Some lees creaminess. Saline mineral tones

Klein Constantia Pardeblokke Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (17+ / 20)
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 7. First vintage with wild yeast fermentation. Always gives power and punch. 100% 500L, 2003 and 2004 Nadalié barrels with thick staves, so little micro-oxygenation. 9 months on gross lees.
A: Very pale gold
N: Vanilla-cream. Citrus and gravel mineral. Lanolin and wax touches. Very Pessac-like. Pungent Sauvignon sweat-spice in the middle
P: Vanilla-cream and spice. Some phenolic grip. Pungent boxwood and spice through the long finish. Powerful, but with brisk, balancing acidity. Some alcohol too

Klein Constantia Pardeblokke Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015 [barrel sample] (17 / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. 6 months in old barrel, but partial stainless steel fermentation for temperature control at 14-18C, depending on fermentation phase. Rack to barrels for the last 25% of fermentation.
A: Pale lemon
N: Touch of earthy, mealy oak. Blackcurrant leaf
P: Cassis. Some citrus. Crisp. Smoky hint. Spicy finish. Medium-long to long. Crisp, with ripeness

Sancerre 2014 (14.5- / 20)
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 8. Unfiltered, unfined and barrel-aged, 10ppm SO2.
A: Cloudy mid-amber
N: Oxidative Sherry tones – polish, wax and almond-hazelnut. Honey
P: Crisp acidity. Old leather. Wax and polish. Nuts. Dried lemon peel. Light phenolics

Klein Constantia Block 371 Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (17.5 / 20)
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 9. Pressed to barrel and barrel fermented. Only 1 barrel was useable so only 1 bottled. Low sulfur at bottling. Tasted as a barrel sample in 2015, and scored 17.5+!
A: Pale gold with green glints
N: Rich, harmonious balance of pungent Sauvignon, some creaminess (older oak?), subtle pepper spice, earthy-dusty. Complex. Savoury
P: Vanilla-cream. Lanolin and boxwood. Lemongrass and citrus. Some Semillon? Creamy and long

Klein Constantia Block 371 Sauvignon Blanc 2015 [barrel sample] (17.5+ / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. Natural – no added SO2 or filtration. 300 bottles
only, for the on trade. On lees in barrel for micro-oxidation and integration of oak.

A: Pale gold
N: Orange blossom, boxwood and flint touches
P: Supple, creamy, spice, citrus peel. Salty. Very long

Klein Constantia Block 382 2015 (17.5 / 20)
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 10. Highest block on the farm. Same winemaking as Block 371.
A: Pale gold
N: Kiwi and grapefruit. Some cinnamon-like earth and dusty tones. Good aromatic density and balance between fruit and spice-savoury
P: Brisk-crisp acidity. Lemon-lime and kiwi. Spicy mid-palate with some boxwood. Dense. Salty mid-palate. Long. Fine. Power and freshness

Klein Constantia Block 382 Bush Vines Only 2017 (17.5 / 20)
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 11. 1t / Ha. 1 barrel. Bottled with same SO2 as Pardeblokke (35ppm free; 100ppm total), to ensure it has longevity. Just bottled.
A: Pale lemon-gold
N: Fresh earth and toasty scents. Intensely aromatic and perfumed. Greengage and guava. Gentle spice
P: Brisk acidity. Medium-body with some lees richness. Some phenolic grip. Salty mid-palate. Heady guava, boxwood and crushed rock mineral; some white pepper perhaps, too. Finishes dry and savoury. Classy stuff

Klein Constantia Estate Sauvignon Blanc 1996 (16- / 20)
Tasted blind in Sauvignon Blanc masterclass, 2018 – wine 12.
A: Deep gold
N: Mature nose. Marked asparagus. Honey. Old boxwood and dried lime peel. Tinned pea. But still with some attraction. Flinty-smoky mineral. Becomes smokier over time
P: Smoky-flinty. Spice. Honey and wax. Old boxwood, wood polish and dried tinned peas. Past its best, however

Klein Constantia Estate Sauvignon 2 vineyard blend 2015 [barrel sample] (16.5+ / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. One vineyard gives aromatics, one gives structure.
A: Pale lemon
N: Hint of toast. Hint of passionfruit and some cooked citrus
P: Medium body. Creamy entry. Some phenolic grip. Chalky. Saline touch

 

Vin de Constance

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2014 (18.5+ / 20)
Tasted at 67 Pall Mall Vin de Constance vertical masterclass, 2018. 172 g/L RS. Hot, quick vintage.
A: Mid-depth burnished gold
N: Creamy, subtly toasty-spiced oak, with ripe, muscatty sultanas and dried orange peel. Some milk chocolate tones. Dense and inviting. Plenty of complexity
P: Rich and full-bodied; unctuous. Spicy cinnamon tones to dried orange and preserved stone fruit. Some savoury, mineral tones. Brisk acidity just keeps the sweetness in check. Long, creamy finish

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2014 [barrel sample] (17+ / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. Raisined Muscat Blanc; 99% botrytis-free. 1-1.5kg per plant. Picked from end-January to end-April due to berry selection
A: Mid, burnished gold
N: Powerfully aromatic: orange peel, apricot, floral and raisin. Creamy. Primary
P: Richly sweet, but with a streak of crisp acidity. Floral / soapy Muscat Blanc notes. Balanced. Long. Young

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2013 (17 / 20)
Tasted at 67 Pall Mall Vin de Constance vertical masterclass, 2018. Hot, quick vintage.
A: Mid-gold, some copper glints
N: More white flower and subtle clove spice. Quince and dried apricot. Cinnamon hints
P: Not as rich as 2014, but fully sweet. Some preserved grapefruit and orange peel. Brisk acidity that gives mouthwatering lift. Good length, but not as long as 2014

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2012 (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at the 2015 launch event, Berry Bros, London. 3 month harvest. 2 weeks cold maceration but pressed before fermentation, as rains had softened the skins so much. 2 days to press.
A: MDG, amber glints
N: Musky spice, cinnamon, mandarin and apricot. Dried fruit and the emergence of nutty, tea-leaf maturity. Fairly well-scented, but with tertiary development
P: Intense, spicy, cinnamon and chilli sweetness. Bitter peels and dried apricot. Lively acidity. Fairly long, dried apricot scented finish. Spicy length

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2012 (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at 67 Pall Mall Vin de Constance vertical masterclass, 2018. Small vintage, with threats of storms, so left harvest to 27th April, 2 days before Matt’s wedding. 160 g/L RS.
A: Mid-depth burnished gold
N: Honey, ripe apricot and orange peel. Cinnamon and clove, wax and orange blossom. Dusty mineral
P: Rich, unctuous, creamy orange peel and marmalade. Juicy acidity holds it together. Creamy, vanilla mid-palate. Long

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2012 (?? / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015.
A: Mid amber
N: Crystal orange peel. Very aromatic. Creamy hint, with oak spice. Honey and floral character. Turkish delight
P: Rich, but not overdone. Bright acidity. Orange and apricot, with some dried character. Sweet, but not unctuous. Long

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2007 (18.5 / 20)
Tasted at 67 Pall Mall Vin de Constance vertical masterclass, 2018. First vintage Matt blended.
A: Medium amber
N: Honey and wax-laced, dried orange peel. Spice and chocolate tones. Mid-maturity. Some tobacco notes
P: Bright, balancing acidity on rich but not unctuous sweetness. Beautiful balance. Chocolate, ginger spice, honey and wax. Spicy finish, rather than creamy. Long

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2004 (17- / 20)
Tasted at 67 Pall Mall Vin de Constance vertical masterclass, 2018. A: Deep, burnished gold
N: Fully-mature, old tea leaves, dried apricot, wax, some polished wood
P: Crisp acidity. Fully-mature old tea, wax, polished wood and cooked tangerine. Lovely acidity. Decent length

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015 blending component 1 [tank sample; 2 weeks old] (16.5 / 20)
Tasted at 67 Pall Mall Vin de Constance vertical masterclass, 2018. 2015 difficult vintage. Having worried that it would not make the grade, after blending and testing, were able to make a wine that was good enough. Component 1 richer and bolder.
A: Mid gold
N: Some white flower and orange peel. Delicate – not so intense. Then some chocolate and cream pie
P: Sweet, but not unctuous. Spice, chocolate, orange peel. Bright acidity. Chocolate finish

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015 blending component 2 [tank sample; 2 weeks old] (17 / 20)
Tasted at 67 Pall Mall Vin de Constance vertical masterclass, 2018.
A: Mid-deep gold
N: Chocolate and dustiness. Ripe quince. Dense and closed
P: Mid-weight. Crisp acidity. Some floral and vanilla. Chocolate and cinnamon. Long

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015 blending component 3 [tank sample; 2 weeks old] (16.5 / 20)
Tasted at 67 Pall Mall Vin de Constance vertical masterclass, 2018.
A: Mid gold
N: More neutral. Mineral. Dark chocolate. Closed
P: Brisk acidity. Mid-weight sweetness with tangy orange and orange peel. Creamy. Longest finish

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015 final blend [sample; bottled Friday] (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at 67 Pall Mall Vin de Constance vertical masterclass, 2018. 15% 2016 blended-in, to bring some freshness. 175 g/L RS.
A: Mid burnished gold
N: Moderate intensity, floral and quince with some delicate orange peel
P: Brisk acidity. Dried apricot and orange peel. Cinnamon and chocolate, with creamy vanilla spice. Long. Better than the components

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance I6 2015 [tank sample] (17 / 20)
Tasted at the 2015 launch event, Berry Bros, London. 162-172 g/L RS, pH 3.6, TA 6.5 g/L RS.
A: MG, orange tints
N: Rounded, creamy peach, cinnamon. Really peachy. Some mandarin. Chocolate notes and smokiness. Savoury complexity
P: Intense sweetness. Powerful. M-F body. Upfront citrus peel and dried orange. Peach and apricot. Crisp acidity. Cream mid-palate. Medium-long only

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance I7 2015 [tank sample] (18 / 20)
Tasted at the 2015 launch event, Berry Bros, London. 162-172 g/L RS, pH 3.6, TA 6.5 g/L RS.
A: MDG, amber tones
N: Broad, spicy, smoky, with mixed stone fruit. Less focused. More savoury, dustiness and oak
P: Sweet, but not overly so. More balance. Peach and cinnamon. Scented, much longer finish

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance I8 2015 [tank sample] (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at the 2015 launch event, Berry Bros, London. 162-172 g/L RS, pH 3.6, TA 6.5 g/L RS.
A: Hazy, DG, amber tones
N: Musky, chocolate and spice. Warming oak tones. Dusty oak. Some citrus peels in background
P: Rich, orange and orange peel. Body and richness. Weighty, with a fairly long finish. Fresh

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance Green fraction 2018 (15 / 20)
Tasted at the 2015 launch event, Berry Bros, London. Green harvest component, made into wine. End-January harvest. 11.5% ABV, pH 3.25, 2 g/L RS, 8.5 g/L TA.
A: PG, hazy
N: Green, herbal lift. Dry, crunchy green fruit and some pyrazine capsicum
P: Bone dry. Light body. Unripe apple and grass. Racy acidity

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance Essencia 2015 (16 / 20)
Tasted at the 2015 launch event, Berry Bros, London. Same concept as Tokaji Essencia. First time presented in public. 650 g/L RS, pH 3.3, 9 g/L TA, 0.5-1% ABV.
A: Hazy copper
N: Musky oranges and dried apricot. Some spicy, smoky overtones
P: Syrupy. Lusciously sweet. Very low ABV. Apricot and cooked mandarins. Primary with a touch of finish creaminess. But basically sweet fruit component

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015 (18.5 / 20)
Tasted at the 2015 launch event, Berry Bros, London. 1.5 month harvest, with forest fires in mid-harvest. Muscat still on the vine, so every bunch was washed before addition to the vat. No smoke taint found in analysis. 1 week cold maceration, then 1 week fermentation. Take the marc / cap off and press, which gives more juice extraction overall.
A: MG, amber glints
N: Creamy, gentle spicy tones. Subtle cinnamon and milk chocolate. White flower and lifted cut apricots. Some marmalade. Gentle
P: Intense and rich. Orange and lemon peel, with dried mixed peel. Very creamy. Elegant and juicy acidity. Very long, creamy and mixed peel finish

 

MCC and other whites

Klein Constantia Methode Cap Classique Estate Brut 2013 (16.5 / 20)
Tasted at 67 Pall Mall Vin de Constance vertical masterclass, 2018.
A: Mid-gold, fine bead
N: Toasty lees, spice, creamy, hint of vegetal lees. Ripe melon tones
P: Ripe citrus, toasty notes of lees, plenty of length. Fine mousse

Klein Constantia Methode Cap Classique Estate Brut 2012 (16.5 / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. 100% Chardonnay. Dry: 6 g/L RS. 50% matured in new, larger 500L, M toast barrels. 30 months on lees vs. 22 months standard. Served by the vineyard lake, overlooking the vines and winery.
A: Pale-medium lemon, with a lazy bead
N: Marmite hint. Creamy. Hint of mineral spice from oak and mealy too. White peach fruit
P: Toasty. Fully dry. Ripe lemon. Some salty tanginess. Moderate, fine mousse.

Klein Constantia Riesling 2014 (16.5 / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. 8 g/L RS, aiming for an off-dry style. 1,400 bottles. Fruit from 2 blocks. Dirty juice for depth and texture. Partial barrel maturation.
A: Pale lemon
N: Flinty. Floral lime. Slate. Mineral. Aromatic, but restrained. Mealy touch
P: Almost dry. Slatey. Soap touch. White flower. Lemon / lime. More generous than Polish Hill due to 8 g/L. Some stone fruit

Klein Constantia Estate Chardonnay 2013 (16.5-17 / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. Barrel fermentation in 50% new French oak, larger than barriques. Partial MLF
A: Pale gold
N: Peach and subtle pineapple. Spicy / mealy but well-integrated oak tones. Hint of chalk
P: White peach and oak spice. More overt oak on the palate. Some popcorn. Chewy. Saline mid-palate. Touch of alcohol (13.5%?) on the M+, creamy, leesy finish

 

Reds

Klein Constantia Estate Red 20?? (16 / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec. 12 months in 65% new, French oak.
A: Mid-deep ruby
N: Bright, ripe berry fruit and cassis. Overtones of oak spice and cinnamon, but not dominant. Rich. Clean. Some cordite / mineral? Pure
P: Bright acidity. Medium body. Red fruit. Fairly firm but fine tannins. Fair length. Ripe and toasty. Well made. Some salinity too

Anwilka Petite Frère 2012 (16.5 / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Petit Verdot.
A: Deep ruby with a hint of garnet
N: Bright, roasted fruit. Spicy. Oak vanilla / cheese tones. Spice. Some Cabernet leafiness. Dark fruit
P: Rich, spicy blackberry. Some wood-spice. Hint of mineral. Pretty long

Anwilka 2002 (17+ / 20)
Tasted at the estate in November 2015. Best grapes left on the vine for later harvest. Majority (90%) Syrah. 13 months in 50% new French oak.
A: Deep ruby
N: Better-integrated oak. Soy. Meat. Blackberry ripeness. Tight
P: Tight. Bright blackberry. Ripe but with freshness. Black pepper, meat, black olive touch. Oak spice. Fine M(+) tannins

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