Vin de Constance over four decades

South African wine writer Malu Lambert happened to be in London when her country’s most famous wine was displayed in all its glory. We asked her for a report.

Vin de Constance is living history. It’s South Africa’s most fêted wine, and it has been for centuries. In the early 19th century, Constantia’s sweet wines were all the rage in the European courts. Nobility was said to prefer it over the likes of Yquem and Tokaji.

But unlike these two famous sweet wines, Vin de Constance isn’t botrytised. Termed a natural sweet wine, it is made from pale-skinned Muscat de Frontignan grapes left on the vine to dessicate until almost raisined. The must is fermented partly in tank and partly in barrel, then the wine is matured in oak, without fortification.

Vin de Constance is described as ‘a recreation of the legendary Constantia sweet wine made in the 18th and 19th centuries'.

Diemersdal Releases Third Vintage of Unique “Frozen” Sauvignon Blanc

One of South Africa’s most unique and awarded Sauvignon Blanc wines, the Winter Ferment from Diemersdal Estate in Durbanville, has seen the release of its third vintage. This wine, made from grapes harvested in February 2019, undergoes fermentation in the South African winter months after the freshly crushed juice was frozen for four months to give the wine a uniquely expressive fruit profile.

Since the first vintage of Winter Ferment in 2017 the wine has won numerous accolades, including spots in the FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc Competition and the Sauvignon Blanc Trophy at the National Young Wine Show.

In a quest for optimum tropical fruit expression in Sauvignon Blanc, Thys Louw, owner-winemaker at Diemersdal, released the first Winter Ferment in 2017. The wine is made by freezing the grape must to -20°C soon after the grapes were harvested in February. The frozen must is thawed in June, inoculated and allowed to ferment as per normal.

De Wetshof News Winter 2019, Cape Vintner Classification

A wine farm in winter might not show the verdant rows of vineyards or the blooming wildflowers and trees one finds in late spring and summer. But this time of year has a beauty of its own, a dramatic one where the vines are leafless and bare, showing their knuckled scions and shoots reaching for the skies like eerie thin fingers.

The air is crisp and cold and the light sharply clear as it opens up the vineyards to the eye of the beholder. There is a peacefulness. After their energy-sapping growing-season, the spent vines have shed their leaves and are now in a state of dormancy. Resting to recuperate. Mustering the energy and power that will be required when the first birdsong and warm breeze of spring awakens them, heralding the start of another period of growth. Then the vines will be fresh with the urge to ripen grapes for the next harvest.

As far as activities on the farm goes, this is the time to prune. The workers are out in the vineyards with their secateurs busy with the art of pruning, something as old as viticulture itself.

Diemersdal’s Famous Eight Rows Sauvignon Blanc Welcomes New Vintage

Diemersdal Estate, the well-known Sauvignon Blanc producer in Durbanville which has been in the Louw family for six generations, has just released the 2019 vintage of its Eight Rows Sauvignon Blanc, one of South Africa’s best-known and most awarded wines made from this variety.

The origins of the Eight Rows goes back to 2005 when Thys Louw arrived as wine-maker on the family farm after his studies as well as having completed internships at various other Cape estate’s. His father Tienie, however, initially restricted Thys’s ambitions by permitting him to only make wines from eight rows of one Sauvignon Blanc vineyard to see whether Thys was up to the task.

The rest is history: the wine proved to be of superb quality from the start, and today is still made by Thys from the same eight rows as that first vintage in which he had to prove himself. Although today Thys is fully in-charge of Diemersdal, responsible for wine-making, viticulture and managing the estate’s 200ha of vineyards.

Ken Forrester and his renowned Wines celebrate 25 years in Gauteng…

I have known Ken Forrester from the years he was a restaurateur in Johannesburg some time back. Who could ever forget his Duck & Cherry Pie? Fortunately, it is still to be found on the menu at 96 Winery Road which Ken owns with his brother Alan. Put it on your bucket list it you have not been there. As Michelin would say, well worth the drive. You can stop off at Ken Forrester Wines for a tasting on the way.

Since moving to the Cape more than 25 years as Ken and his Ken Forrester Wines have added immensely to the rich tapestry that is Stellenbosch Wine and indeed to Stellenbosch itself. Ken has championed Chenin Blanc and Red Rhône blends with massive success and the wines have iconic status around the world. His motor number plate is CHENIN WP.

Ken Forrester takes to the streets of Gauteng, inviting Jozi and Pretoria friends of wine to their very special 25-Year Celebratory Tasting Series, hosted by Mr.Chenin himself, on 21st and 22nd August respectively.

De Grendel Rubaiyat 2015, when Dianne Bibby’s Red Wine Beef Stew with Potato Gratin is a perfect match…

De Grendel Rubaiyat is named for the collection of quatrains from Omar Khayyam, the 11th Century Persian poet and astronomer. A fine red blend, using grape varieties originally from Bordeaux, which the late Sir David Graaff requested founding winemaker Charles Hopkins to make as an extension of this fine Estate’s wine range. And what a success it has been.

2015 is currently regarded as the finest vintage of the century and as part of the worst drought in living memory and the weather leading up to the harvest still produced excellent concentrated fruit and high colour berries.

The grapes for the blend are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Sauvignon comes from vineyards in Firgrove which are 6 km from False Bay, source of cooling summer breezes which allow for slower ripening, thus greater flavour. The remaining grapes grow on De Grendel, itself only 7 km from Table Bay and the cold Benguela current. 

5 minutes with Kallie Fernhout, Viticulturist at Delaire Graff Wine Estate…

What was the defining moment in your life that set you on the path of becoming a viticulturist?
When I was still in primary school, my grandfather bought a farm between Robertson and McGregor with vineyards and I immediately fell in love.

Where did you train?
Stellenbosch University.

Who would you regard as your mentor?
Rosa Kruger, old vine specialist

What do you enjoy most about being a viticulturist?
Working outside with all the elements that nature has to offer and every year you get the opportunity to create a new vintage that could last for many years to come.

What vineyard practices do you use to minimise the impact on the environment?
We use standard vineyard practices like cover crop to prevent erosion and carefully managed spray programs.  Some of our other initiatives include using Ladybirds as an insecticide and we erect owl houses to attract owls for natural rodent control.

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Satin Nectar Rosé 2017, perfect with Dianne Bibby’s Cognac Apple Cake…

Frans Malan the late, founder of Simonsig Wine Estate, with his wife Liza established the estate in the Stellenbosch Wine Appellation and then proceeded on the most incredible pioneering journey in wine. Their sons, Johan [Production Director] and Francois [Vineyardist] continue on this path with the launch of their latest new product, the Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Satin Nectar Rosé 2017. Frans created the first Kaapse Vonkel in the early 1970s. Since then the Simonsig range of the Champagne style wines, now known as Methode Cap Classique, has grown into a very comfortable little stable. The Satin Nectar is in keeping with the trend of sparkling wines for a little residual sugar for those who prefer this style. Several of the best-known Champagne houses are making this style of wine now which has taken off in a big way in Africa particularly.

The grapes in the blend for this wine are the traditional two black grapes of Champagne, Pinot Noir [72%] and Pinot Meunier [1%] with a goodly splash of our very own Pinotage [27%].

Michael Malan: Third generation winemaker at Simonsig

As the grandson of the Simonsig legend Frans Malan, Michael Frans Malan is one of the few third generation winemakers in Stellenbosch. Michael joined the Simonsig team in 2017 after gaining experience in Italy, Australia and South Africa and was appointed red winemaker this year working under cellarmaster Debbie Thompson and his father, Johan, who is Simonsig’s Director of Wine.

But the decision to follow in the footsteps of the previous two generations was not a foregone conclusion.

“I had always enjoyed maths and chemistry at school, so when it came to choosing a direction in which to study I applied for engineering as well as for viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch, and was accepted for both study-fields,” says the ebullient 30 year-old Michael. But the final decision came during a gap year when he found himself working a harvest in the Alto Adige region of Italy.