Napoleon, Jane Austen, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington all waxed lyrical about their fondness for Constantia’s finest wine and on the 25th of October, Wine Cellar customers came together to enjoy ten modern vintages of Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance at Ten Bompas in Johannesburg.
We were delighted to have Klein Constantia’s gifted young winemaker, Matthew Day, with us for the evening and these wines did not disappoint. So captivating and sensual were said wines that not a single drop was left at the end of the evening. Granted, one unique aspect of the evening was the rare opportunity to revisit these gems later in the evening giving our guests twice the pleasure.
Matt patiently answered everyone’s questions about the farm, Vin de Constance, his winemaking and firm belief that this can be the world’s best sweet wine. Interestingly, he had the support of the table who felt this attitude was befitting the winemaker of such a wine of provenance as opposed to youthful arrogance.
The unique bottle shape intrigued our guests who all tried to proffer opinions as to its origin and then learned that the shape pays homage to the hand-blown glass bottles of the original elixir favoured by nobility across the globe.
After welcoming our guests, Matt discussed the rich history and winemaking behind the iconic wine before presenting the first flight: Vin de Constance 1987, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995. There was a reverent silence as our guests examined each glass. While there was an ’86 vintage produced – it was only gifted to potential brand ambassadors and a privileged few industry pundits. 1987 was the first commercially released modern vintage. The ’87 and ’91 vintages were very different to the others in the flight with more toffee and gooseberry jam notes. From the 1992 vintage on the freshness and citrus characters were far more pronounced. While ’92 was favoured by the group in the flight – it was by just a single vote over the ’87 – a soft palate with a somewhat smoky note of roasted fruit and a slightly oxidised finish.
The second flight: Vin de Constance 1997, 1998, 2002, 2007, and 2008. While there were some common threads across the wines, 2008 was the firm favourite of the night with an unparalleled complexity and nuances that appeared to unravel in one’s mouth. Each sip revealed something different from the next and the exquisite balance and elegance led to much discussion on how this particular vintage would evolve over the next decade.
A three-course dinner followed the initial tasting – the first course paired with Klein Constantia’s Perdeblokke Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and the main course with their Anwilka 2008. The Perdeblokke is a limited release, single-vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from high-altitude vineyards with a stone fruit and citrus character highlighted by nutty notes and herbal nuances. Klein Constantia’s “sister farm” in Stellenbosch is Anwilka – purchased in the 1990s as a joint venture between then owners, Lowell Jooste (the former co-owner of Klein Constantia) along with internationally well known Bordeaux wine personalities Hubert de Boüard (co-owner of Château Angélus in Saint-Emilion) and Bruno Prats (former owner of Château Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe). The Anwilka ’08 is a Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend full of purple and red fruit framed with sturdy oak character. While one guest commented that the Vin de Constance was a better match to the lamb rack, it was rather telling that not a drop was left in any of the Anwilka bottles!
Dessert was served with fresh helpings of the Vin de Constance 2008 and a revisit to the previously tasted vintages. Perhaps dessert has never been consumed so slowly – not a guest wanted the experience to end. The lucky diners were spoiled for choice and the hero of the night was Vin de Constance.
Note: Matt and I took a decision to exclude the 1988 vintage from the first flight – while not faulty, it simply did not show as well as the other wines in the line-up and had more oxidised notes on the nose and palate. We did after the tasting allow guests to try it at which point they realised why we had not included it yet most felt the need to drink it. Not a single spittoon was put to use on the evening, an unusual measure of the success of the night!
If there was one regret, it was simply that more guests couldn’t be with us for this fabulous once-in-a-lifetime event!
– Debi van Flymen