Constantia, the oldest wine-growing region in the Southern hemisphere, renowned for its award-winning, premium and age-worthy Sauvignon Blanc, is quietly making waves for their refined, fresh and elegant red wines.
A mere three to seven kilometres between the nearest coastlines, the cold Atlantic Ocean flanks Constantia from two sides. The maritime winds, a result of the icy Benguela current, which flows northwards from Antarctica up the west coast of Africa, regulates the region’s annual average temperature to a mild 16° Celsius. In addition to these cooling breezes, these coastal winds bring both cloud cover and humidity to the valley, all resulting in an optimal oceanic, cool climate.
It is this cool climate, together with Constantia’s impressive range of altitude and amphitheatre-like valley, decomposed granite and sandstone soils, as well as the ward’s annual rainfall – about 1,000mm of rain per year, making irrigation unnecessary – which creates the perfect pockets for the production of sensational red wines.
“The red wines from cool climates tend to have excellent colour and depth of flavour, without any detriment to the natural acidity of the wines, as the grapes retain their acidity well when temperatures are cooler, and ripening occurs slowly,” explains Constantia Glen cellarmaster.Justin van Wyk
Terroir and climate of Constantia
The aspect, altitude, terroir and climate of Constantia come together to allow for a slow but steady ripening which sees the grapes retain flavour and acidity without becoming too sweet or flabby.
Beau Constantia winemaker Megan van der Merwe adds that the cool climate allows for “slow accumulation of sugars and therefore [the ability to] achieve phenolic ripeness at lower alcohol levels and higher natural acidity levels.”
Constantia’s red wines of distinction range from blends to single varietals. Though all may be quite different, the thread that ties them together is that they are all well-structured and well-balanced wines with elegant tannins, offering many beautiful dark fruit notes.
The region has become particularly well known for its Constantia red wine blends, often made using Bordeaux varietals, the likes of Constantia Glen FIVE, Groot Constantia’s Gouverneurs Reserve Red, Beau Constantia’s LUCCA and Steenberg’s Catharina, all proving to be exceptional and elegant wines.
“The total combination Constantia climate offers is an absolute gem found in very few areas of the world. Great soil, site, rainfall, cool winds from the oceans all working together with sufficient sunlight on the right slopes, it is heaven for these cultivars.” says Steenberg cellarmaster.Elunda Basson
As such, the cultivars are also more than capable of standing on their own, as can be seen with Buitenverwachting’s Cabernet Franc 2014. The wine demonstrates Constantia’s reputation for age-worthy wine, showcasing a true reflection of classic Cabernet Franc with a combination of power and elegance.
Winemaker Brad Paton attributes this to the region’s unique climate and terroir: “[It’s] the combination of our aged soils, together with the very cold winds we get off False Bay in spring and summer, but also the ripeness we get from our moderate summer temperatures which plays a big part in us being able to make more elegant styles of red varietals.”
In addition, the region has also received renown for its Shiraz. The variety also benefits from the slow ripening due to the cool climate.
“Constantia is suited to Shiraz because [the climate] gives the fruit a chance to ripen gradually without resulting in a wine with overly jammy characteristics. The wines are more complex with elegant fruit profiles.”Graig Barnard
So, whether you’re looking for a red blend, a single variety Cabernet Franc or perhaps a Shiraz, if it is structure, freshness, elegance and finesse you are after, you need look no further than Constantia and the region’s superb cool-climate reds.
For more information or to order online visit www.constantia-wines.co.za