2012 Klein Constantia, Vin de Constance, Constantia, South Africa
Neal Martin - 30/11/2015
John Stimpfig, Decanter, April 2016
About this WINE
Dating back to 1685 and described as one of the world’s most beautiful wine estates, Klein Constantia is set amidst ancient trees on the upper foothills of the Constantiaberg, with views across False Bay. The perfect location for cool climate wines, Klein Constantia produces some of South Africa’s top wines, including one of the world’s best natural sweet wines, Vin de Constance.
Prized by leaders and aristocracy throughout 18th Century Europe, Constantia’s Vin de Constance soon became part of the literature of the 19th century. In Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens tells of “…the support embodied in a glass of Constantia and a home-made biscuit”, while Jane Austen recommends that her forsaken heroine try a little Constantia for “…its healing powers on a disappointed heart”.
Following devastation in the vineyards, caused by Phylloxera at the end of the 19th Century, the wine was revived by Klein Constantia in 1986, reaffirming this unique natural sweet wine’s place in history. Since being re-introduced, Vin de Constance has consistently appeared in lists of the world’s top wines. The 2007 vintage was awarded 97 points by Neal Martin of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, making it the best rated South African sweet wine in history.
Today, Klein Constantia continues to make wines that reflect the cool Constantia climate, as well as their historic tradition under the watchful eye of talentented winemaker Matthew Day.
Matthew grew up in Johannesburg, but a keen interest in winemaking saw him relocate to the Cape to pursue an education in this field. After graduating from Stellenbosch University with a Bachelor of Science (Agriculture) in Viticulture and Oenology, Matt worked at various local and international estates gaining vital experience.
From a harvest at Meerlust and Chateau Belefont Belcier in St Emilion, to assisting in the cellar at Elderton Estate in the Barossa Valley, and working as a winemaking intern at St Emilion’s Chateux Trianon and Dancing Hares Estate in the Napa Valley, Matt was more than prepared to take on the role of Assistant Winemaker at Klein Constantia in 2008 under Adam Mason’s guidance. He became head winemaker at Klein Constantia in 2010 and quickly saw his 2007 Vin de Constance blend receive 97 points from Neal Martin of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
The historically important if tiny wine district of Constantia lies in Cape Town’s southern wards, and on the most southerly point of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope.
Constantia is most famous for its ancient dessert wine Vin de Constance (made from Muscat de Frontignan) as produced by Klein Constantia estate.
The cooling, south-easterly sea breezes make Constantia a natural site for Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon as well as Muscat.
The district is home to a mere 8 wine estates, including Klein Constantia, Groot Constantia, Buitervenwachting, Constantia Uitsig, Eagles' Nest, Steenberg, Constantia Glen
Muscat refers to a family of grapes of which there are around 200 different branches. Muscat Blancs à Petits Grains is the most noble of the variety and makes the best and most distinctive wines. It is the only wine grape that produces wines that actually taste of grapes, and can produce a range of wines from pale, bone dry whites, through to golden yellow, rich, sweet wines.
In Alsace, two types of Muscat are grown - Muscat Blancs à Petits Grains and Muscat Ottonel. They are usually blended to produce wines that tend to be light and dry with a fruity, musky character and an intensely aromatic bouquet. Intensely sweet late harvest wines are also produced.
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is one of the best Vin Doux Naturels in France. This is produced by adding grape spirit to the partly fermented must - the best producers, such as Domaine de Durban, produce deliciously sweet wines with rich grapey aromas balanced by fruity acidity.
In Australia Muscat à Petit Grains is used to produce the fortified Liqueur Muscats of Victoria (esp. Rutherglen). These are extraordinary wines - dark and treacly with a sensational perfume of orange, raisins and honey.
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My first impression of Matthew Day’s maiden Vin de Constance is very simply “wow, what a wine!” He seems to have created even more depth, even more layers of complexity and its more vinous, more winey…there’s just more! The nose has taut, yellow apple fruit in spades with a little peach and soft plum characters too.
There is an exciting touch of German Riesling Auslese too – all those petrol, acacia, honey notes and citric lift. The palate is hugely complex as you might imagine, the Auslese character is present too. Although the acidity is greater than in previous years, it is entirely dovetailed into the structure of the wine. The length is simply huge, lasting for minutes but leaves me just wanting another glass. Drink now to 2030+.
Gary Owen, Private Account Manager
Matt has been working at Klein Constantia since 2009 as assistant to the highly respected Adam Mason, but has brought his own ideas and philosophy to the wine. Matt has used the vintage conditions of 2012 and his own methodology to preserve the aromatics and improve the freshness of the wine – highly important in a wine as sweet as Vin de Constance.
Importantly Matt has been harvesting in batches, almost like Sauternes trie harvesting, only picking the grapes when they are at their peak ripeness. In 2012 that meant a colossal three month harvest! At the end of harvest he also used a proportion of Essencia juice, the free run juice from the sweetest berries – this culminates in a more intense, more balanced and more drinkable Vin de Constance!
Since being re-introduced in 1986, Vin de Constance has consistently appeared in lists of the world’s top wines. The 2007 vintage was awarded 97 points by Neal Martin of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, making it the best rated South African sweet wine in history. The outstanding 2009 was in the Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines of 2015.
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