The South African Winelands Low-down – Constantia & Cape Town

With the trusty John Platter wine guide 2013 in hand we were ready to hit South Africa’s wine estates (purchased in Verbatim Bookstore (http://www.stellenbosch-unlimited.co.za/verbatim/index.html) Stellenbosch and on offer, even better!)

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Wine Estates to visit:

Constantia

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A lovely hidden away wine estate with a laid back feel. Grab a sofa or table looking out onto the courtyard with palm trees and fountain, then get your tastings at the bar as and when you’re ready. The staff are happy to chat and answer your questions. An amazing amount of tastings for the price, possibly the best value of the trip, and there was no scrimping on portion size. All quite light in style.

Our Star Wine:

Cabernet Franc 2009 – pleasant nose and quite a tasty example. Cherry, rhubarb, green pepper, something a bit animal and hints of chicory charcoal.

Also tasted:

  • Buiten Blanc 2012 – a simple, easy drinking Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend, a hint of residual sugar on the finish.
  • Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – quite a subtle Sauvignon with green grass and herb aromas, hints of blackcurrant leaf, but a creamy, soft butteriness that was unexpected.
  • Chardonnay 2012 – zingaling! Quite a crisp, citrus style oozing pineapple, with a creamy roundness to it.
  • Loose Cannon 2010 – 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, more tropical, mango, nectarine, pungent, wet pebbles and wafts of kerosene (if I dare say), little bit metallic on the finish. Matches the name I think!
  • Blanc de Noir 2012 – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc. Very fruity with crisp acidity, lots of strawberry with herbaceous hints, fruit disappears a little on the finish but good acidity for a hot day!
  • Brut-Non vintage – 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. Huge mousse and large bubbly beads. Tropical tones of pineapple and bready, yeasty aromas. Quite sharp acidity, wow, wakes your taste buds up!
  • Meifort 2008 – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec. A very Bordeaux-esque nose savoury meat and blood aromas (odd I know), fruit and spice comes through nicely.
  • Merlot 2009 – Quite light bodied with plum, fruit cake and savoury aromas, the finish felt a little watery.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Full bodied with dark fruit and fruitcake aromas, cherry and rhubarb. Something a bit medicinal in there too.
  • Christine 2008 – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Pleasant savoury aromas, pencil wood and dark red fruits. Hoped for a bit more on the body and hit by the alcohol but it may need more time.

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Ah, a blast from the past, we came here almost 6 years ago on our honeymoon and never dreamt then that we’d be back doing this wine tour of the area. Beautiful, large grounds worthy of a saunter around and a large tasting room, with art covering all walls, buzzing with visitors.

  • Cap Classique 2009 – Crisp and cleansing, apple flavours and acidic bite with a touch of creamy richness in the mouth.
  • Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Ripe summer fruits, grapefruit, pear and hints of grass and herb, a little tart.
  • Pinotage 2011 – Full bodied with dark red fruits, dark chocolate and ripe plums, summery cooked fruits, hints of spice and caramel on the finish.
  • Gouverneurs Reserve 2010 – 37% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec. Ripe and rich red fruits, hints of vanilla and peppery spice, cherry, plum, blackcurrant, alcohol showed on the finish. We have tasted more balanced blends for a lower price tag.
  • Cape Ruby 2010 (Port) – Aromas of redcurrant and pomegranate, muscovado sugar and fresh tea! Alcohol quite prominent. Preferred the Simonsig Port for richness of flavour.

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A bit smaller than expected and not as grand as some of the other wineries visited. The advisors are very helpful and friendly and you are invited to taste the wines at the tasting counter and can see the workings of the winery from walkways above the tanks. Enjoyed the company of the winery’s very friendly pooch.

The Wow Factor:

  • Vin de Constance 2007 – Golden amber, orange/lemon rind and marmalade, spice, apricot, peach syrup, very long finish. Apparently it got 97 Parker points too if that is your thing.

Also tasted:

  • Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Lots of apple, pear, grass and herb, crisp and clean.
  • Riesling 2012, the first from their new vineyard, spicy ginger, jasmine, lime, lemon turkish delight, alcohol quite noticeable.
  • Madame Marlbrook 2010 – Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and 10% Chardonnay which had 10 months in oak. Citrus nose, smoky pistachio. Needs to be drunk in next 6 months.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – Bordeaux style, dark fruits and hints of spice, a young wine still needing time to knit together.
  • Shiraz 2010 – limited release of 1600 bottles due to being such a good year, but it is usually kept for the blends. Fruit cake and hints of spice but still a bit closed as it’s young.
  • Marlbrook 2009 – Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, 2% Shiraz and 24 months in oak. Pencil shaving nose, redcurrant, bramble, vanilla,  balanced.
  • Anwilka 2008 – Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with new oak. Concentrated red fruits abound, full flavoured with balanced acid and tannin, bit warm on the finish.

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  • Steenberg (free tasting for 6 wines, flagship range costs £4 for 5 wines)

A large golf hotel complex and winery. Beautiful bar and wine tasting area, with calming water feature. Love the art works in many of these wine estates, where glass is adventurously used to create chandeliers and all sorts of funky installations. Very knowledgeable, informative wine advisor.

Our Star Wine:

  • Steenberg Semillon 2011 – The best we tasted! Zesty and lemony but not tart, had a buttery leesiness and touch of oak, very well integrated. Round and smooth in the mouth, with good body. Can imagine this developing more but it was lovely to have now.

Also tasted:

  • Steenberg 1682 Chardonnay, Méthode Cap Classique – is made from grapes from the Robertson region. A nice aperitif in hot weather, bursting with granny smith, crsip green apple and cleansing, zesty acidity.
  • Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2011 – Made from a block of grapes 23 years old, due to be removed and replanted in a year’s time. More of a foody wine, crisp with gooseberry, citrus and hints of tropical fruits. Crisp and zesty, acidity balanced with a hint of residual sugar.
  • Magna Carta 2010 – Steenberg’s icon wine, made from 65% Sauvignon Blanc and 35% Semillon. Green apple cuts through the roundness of the wine, pungent with gooseberry. An interesting wine maybe more suited to food.
  • Steenberg Shiraz 2010 – Juicy and drinkable! Dark brambly fruits, ripe strawberry and raspberry, aroma of muscovado sugar in there. The oak and alcohol is integrated, with soft tannins, an earthy tone, light spice and hints of clove.
  • Catharina 2009 – Lovely! Made from 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc. Blackcurrant and fruit pastilles, quite light on the nose, well integrated oak and unintrusive tannins. A lighter styled Bordeaux blend.
  • Nebbiolo 2010 – Sadly sold out, which says a lot! We hope to try this one day.

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Cape Town

On a day off from visiting wineries, we came across Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar in the Victoria and Albert Dock shopping centre, in Cape Town, that had a good range of wines of offer.

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