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Constantia Glen Sauvignon Blanc - vertical & challenging

Cathy tastes through six vintages of one of SA's top Sauvignon Blancs.

by: Cathy Marston | 16 Feb 2011

It’s very normal for me to leave a wine event clutching a bottle or two given as a parting gift. It is not very normal for me to be so impressed with the wine that I actually open my purse, give the moths a breather and shell out some of my hard-earned cash buying the wine I’ve just tasted. Perhaps I was overcome by the stunning views at Constantia Glen yesterday. Or the excellent special offer they are running at the moment –see the bottom of the page. Or simply that these were some of the most interesting and individual Sauvignons I’ve tasted for quite some time.

Constantia Glen is a relative newcomer on the SA wine scene with most of the vines only being planted around ten years ago. The original aim was, in fact, to just make one wine – a Sauvignon – but after a few years, cellarmaster Karl Lambour (surely the tallest winemaker in the Southern Hemisphere!) decided that he needed something else in order to achieve his goal. For Karl, great sauvignon is all about texture, mouthfeel and longevity. These can be achieved through using different clones (which they had), leaving the wine on lees and then in bottle before releasing (which they were doing) but it was only when they started adding small amounts of Semillon and then incorporating some oak into the mix that they finally started to get the results they were looking for.

We tasted through 6 vintages of the Constantia Glen sauvignon blanc, starting with the 2005 and the 2006 which were both made by John Loubser at Steenberg and were starting to show definite signs of age. The 2007 was the first wine made in their own cellars by Karl and has wonderful poise and elegance with some herbal notes, creamy fruit and well-integrated acidity. The 2008 had a distinctive flinty character, reminiscent of top Loire whites, the 2009 was an explosion of aromatics and floral perfume whilst the 2010 was still having a teenage sulk in its bedroom and refusing to show anything much at all.  2009 was the first year that Semillon and oak were used and according to Karl, these proportions will be increased over the coming vintages.

Working in tandem with Karl is ex-Chateau Cheval Blanc owner, Dominique Hebrard, now part-owner of Constantia Glen. Over a fabulous lunch on the stoep as the vineyards fell away below, we chatted about his plans and hopes for the red wines to come from the farm. Cheval Blanc is the only Grand Cru which is led by Cabernet Franc (over 60%) and although he is extremely excited and positive about the grapes they are producing here in Constantia, it is Petit Verdot which he believes to have the most potential. At the moment they make two red wines – the Three and the Five – with the Three being the most commercial and the Five offering elegance, integration and class. Dominique says he would be very happy if either – or both – wines ended up being Petit Verdot-led, a world first he believes, but one which would do the most important job of any wine – expressing the terroir and experience which crafted it.

Stop Press – until stocks run out, go and visit Constantia Glen and pick up some of the 2008 at their ridiculous opening-special price of R300 a case as opposed to R450. I did, and I shall be back for more as well!

Constantia Glen will be one of the wineries showing their wines at the Constantia Fresh Festival 25th & 26th February. Click here for more details.

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