Of all South Africa’s wine-growing regions, no other has mastered sauvignon blanc quite like the Constantia Valley. Grown in the historic and unique microclimate on the foothills of Table Mountain, the grape is used to profound effect when it comes to the production of the region’s premium expression of the varietal.
A wine that is often considered to be too fruity, too green, too acidic, or, quite frankly, too simple finds a seriousness in the valley, presenting as it does nowhere else. Here, they show elegance, finesse, and structure. Weighty, balanced wines that develop in complexity as they age.
So, it is unsurprising that Constantia has chosen this varietal as its flagship, and the driving force behind the first varietal-specific wine route in the country — The Constantia Sauvignon Blanc route. A bold move that proves Constantia does indeed take its sauvignon seriously.
“It’s our terroir that makes our wines so distinctive,” says marketing manager of the wine route, Carryn Wiltshire. “Our winemakers work with the natural elements that make up the uniqueness of the Constantia wine region, producing world-class sauvignon blancs that have depth and character as they age.”
As Dan Nicholl, the multi-hyphenate wine lover and presenter of Dan Really Likes Wine, succinctly puts it, “a vintage is not a sell-by-date”, and Constantia is here to prove that.
Each stop on the new, mountainous meander will include the option of a sauvignon-blanc tasting. Two tipples — including at least one of the current vintage and one of the back vintages — allow visitors to taste some seriously impressive bottles usually kept for library collections and special tastings. It’s a fantastic opportunity to not only enjoy some of the best sauvignon South Africa has to offer but also, more excitingly, to discover the “age-ability” of the varietal.
Eight of the nine member farms of The Constantia Wine Route are partaking in one form or another, with Eagle’s Nest making nine later this year.
Steenberg, Buitenverwachting, Klein Constantia, Groot Constantia, Constantia Glen, and Beau Constantia will all run the offering alongside their usual tastings and have all pulled out superb back vintages for inclusion.
When asked what sets Constantia sauvignon blanc apart, winemaker Elunda Basson says: “It is as simple and as complicated as our terroir. It’s the combination of our soil, our wind exposure, our location in relation to the mountain, and our totality that is our climate, which allows us to produce wines that can age well, show elegance over time, and respect the fruit its true sense of place.”
Moving on up the valley, Groot Constantia’s 2013 is a perfect example of how wonderfully the grape ages and develops, while Beau’s 2020 Pierre looks to the next generation, with young winemaker Megan van der Merwe offering up a cracking, partially skin-fermented expression of the varietal (with a dash of semillon) that is thrillingly textured and layered with complexity — an unconventional but no less stunning use of the Constantia-grown grapes.
The likes of Silvermist and Constantia Royale are by appointment only, however, they’re well worth the effort of organising. Gregory Brink Louw’s organic focus at Silvermist creates an incredibly elegant, weighty and refined wine, while the latter’s winemaker, Roger Burton, seriously impresses with his Don’s Reserve 2020, a wooded expression of the varietal.
Guests who opt to take part can pick up Sauvignon Blanc Route Tasting Cards at all partaking properties which, once completed, will allow access to special rates on the route’s online store.
It is a stellar opportunity to explore the varietal, comparing the similarities that run through those from the region in addition to the differences each winemaker brings to their wine, along with the effects of cellar maturation.
• From the May edition of Wanted, 2021.