“Which came first: Vin de Constance or Sauternes? I suspect the former.” Neal Martin
“Constantia was bought by European courts in the 18th and 19th Centuries in preference to Yquem, Tokay, Madeira…” Hugh Johnson
This September Klein Constantia launched the latest vintage of their iconic sweet wine, Vin de Constance 2017, to much acclaim and awards. Amidst the accolades, Neal Martin recently published, on Vinous, his most thorough vertical tasting review of Vin de Constance to date. In his own words:
"The 2017 Vin de Constance is lucid silvery-straw in hue. It is beautifully defined on the nose, featuring scents of dried honey, almond, praline and pressed yellow flowers, perhaps borrowing some of the airiness of the 2016 vintage. The palate is underpinned by a keen line of acidity that effortlessly counterbalances the richness of this 2017, making it one of the easiest sweet wines to drink in its youth. It conveys plenty of energy with a very persistent orange peel, quince and marmalade finish, then a spicy aftertaste. Sublime." Vinous, 95 points
With the young, affable Matt Day at the helm since 2012, quality at this historic estate has steadily improved, thanks to a revamp of the winery itself and tweaks in the winemaking process that have brought clarity and definition to the wines.
Rich and generous, with definition and expression, it is clear to see why this is considered one of the benchmarks for sweet wine from around the world.
History and Winemaking
Over 300 years of history in every bottle.
Kings vied for possession of this wine; Louis Philippe sent emissaries from France to fetch it; Napoleon drank it on the island of St Helena to find solace in his lonely exile; Frederick the Great and Bismarck ordered it; and the English Prime Minister – who had sampled it with much delight at Downing Street – made sure that regular consignments from the Cape were delivered to Buckingham Palace for the King. Towards the end of the 19th Century, the dreaded disease “Phylloxera” arrived at the Cape, causing devastation in the vineyards and bankruptcy amongst winemaking families. Production of the famous dessert wine ceased, and the Cloetes moved away from their Klein Constantia estate. In 1980, during the redevelopment of Klein Constantia Estate, everyone involved was inspired by the challenge – the mission even – to bring back the famous sweet Constantia wine, for the farm had once been part of Simon van der Stel’s original estate when the Dutch settlers first arrived in South Africa. Early records were studied and careful selection made from vines which, in all likelihood, came from the original stock used in Constantia 300 years ago. Now, over a century after its disappearance, comes the renaissance – Vin de Constance – made in the style of the old Constantia, from vineyards which once produced this legendary wine.
The approach used to create Vin de Constance is unique to Klein Constantia, tailored from historic information used to make the iconic sweet wines of Constantia in the 1700’s. From these records they have recreated a style of Muscat de Frontignan involving numerous winemaking techniques in order to create the perfect sweet wine. One of the most important aspects is to achieve balance, to do this they harvested the grapes in numerous batches over a 2 month period. Each batch has a precise purpose and is meticulously blended together on numerous occasions to achieve a perfect balance between sugar, alcohol and acidity. After an extended fermentation period, the wine was aged for 3 years in a combination of 50% new oak and acacia barrels, as well as large format foudres before further blending and bottling. It may all sound very straight forward but underlying all these individual techniques is the unique location and terroir of Klein Constantia that produces one of the world’s most unmistakeable and age-worthy sweet wines in the world.