You don’t often hear the phrase ‘deepest, darkest Constantia’ but as I wound my way up through the woods to Eagles’ Nest winery, it felt really quite claustrophobic and sinister. Arriving at the pretty Cape Dutch house was a relief, but still the trees pressed in on all sides and I was grateful when commercial manager Andrew Leaver suggested carrying on up into the vineyards above the winery.
Oh wow! Within one turn of the road we had left all the scary forest behind and in front of us was this incredible amphitheatre of terraces and vines. It felt as if I were in the Mosel, Germany and, as we lurched up impossibly steep, virtually invisible tracks at crazy angles, Andrew explained that devastating forest fires flew through this area of Constantia a decade ago, turning what had been a ‘hobby farm’ for owners, the Mylrea family, into a charred wreck.
Rather fortuitously, the Mylrea’s previous business was construction and they had hung onto a couple of heavy, earth-moving machines ‘just in case’. Using top viti-consultant Kevin Watt, they mapped out an improbable series of terraces which hug the curves of the mountainside, fitting into tight corners with ease. The aim is to make the most of the cool Constantia climate whilst minimising the effect of the wind. They also decided to concentrate on red varietals – a departure for most Constantia vineyards – but one which they felt best suited the soils and micro-climates.
And how right they were. Since its first release, Eagles’ Nest has garnered an unprecedented array of awards including IWSC Best Shiraz in the World and now the Trophy for Best Shiraz for a second year at the Old Mutual Trophy Show awards plus best Red Wine at the Show. Considering they are only 4 vintages into production, this is a remarkable achievement and says much for both the quality of the grapes and the skill of winemakers Martin Meinert and Stuart Botha.
Plans are afoot for new releases later on this year – the Little Eagle will be a Bordeaux blend retailing at considerably less than the top wines, and a Sauvignon Blanc made using bought-in grapes will be coming up soon. A percentage of profits from the Little Eagle will be given to the Western Cape Raptor Research programme to aid them in preserving the last pair of Black Eagles to nest in Constantia and after whom the winery is named. With a new chick on the way, new wines coming through and awards flooding through the door, I think it is fair to say that Eagles’ Nest truly is flying high.
Eagles’ Nest Viognier 2008
A spicy nose with lots of baked peaches and apricots. Intense mouthfeel with marmalade, cloves and a brioche/almond finish. Needs time to open up in the glass and don’t serve it too cold.
Eagles’ Nest Merlot 2006
Surprisingly spicy nose with aromatic herbal notes. Generous black fruit with cinnamon and chocolate. Ripe, integrated tannins with a licorice twist at the finish.
Eagles’ Nest Shiraz 2008
Very classic entry with lots of dark berries and white pepper. Slight hammy hints with cloves, baked plums and perfumed peppercorns. Juicy tannins and well-integrated spicy oak.
If you would like to taste Eagles' Nest Shiraz and the other winning wines, there are public tastings in Johannesburg on 21st May and in Cape Town 28th May. Click here for more information