Tim's Blog

Cool climate South Africa


At Richmond Wine Society on Monday and Wednesday this week we explored cool climate South Africa, tasting a magnificent range from Constantia, Stellenbosch and Walker Bay.

We kicked off with a trio from the famous Klein Constantia estate, comprising

  • a delightfully mature 2011 Cap Classique: 100% Chardonnay, made in the Methode Traditionelle with a pleasant yeasty nose and good balance;
  • the first vintage of a newly planted vineyard of Riesling: off-dry full of fresh lemon and lime fruit which was a perfect accompaniment to the delicious crab risotto provided by The Britannia,
  • a Sauvignon Blanc made in collaboration with Pascale Jolivet, the renowned Sancerre producer.  Mineral rich with an intense punchy citrus and stone fruit palate and an intense finish.  Not cheap, but very well made and in very short supply.

We then turned our attention to the boutique Crystallum estate which is situated in Walker Bay near Hermanus, famed location for whale watching.   Two of the Finlayson brothers have established a top class winery focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The Agnes Chardonnay 2014 was exceptionally harmonious and would convert any non-believer in the charms of this occasionally despised grape (remember White Burgundy never went out of fashion).  The Pinot Noir was a revelation, spicy, rich, intense and elegant.  This is definitely a wine to watch for the future.

We washed down our perfectly cooked sausage and mash with the Afrikan Ridge Shiraz Cabernet – an absolute bargain at £5.99 (this price held to 19th May).

Two big reds from Stellenbosch completed the main line up, both were Cabernet Shiraz blends from the Helderberg region, which benefits from cooling ocean breezes.  Rich, intense and powerful, the Petit Frere 2010 was more forward, while the flagship Anwilka 2009 still had many years left to go.

We rounded off the evening with the legendary and historic Vin de Constance, a wine first drunk by the Tsars and enjoyed in Eighteenth Century French Courts.  Even Napoleon sought solace with it during his exile in St Helena.  Gloriously intense, rich, honeyed with the essence of sultanas and dried fruits, this is one of the world’s most exceptional dessert wines.

All wines are available at a significant discount to their normal price until 19th May.  Please visit the shop to order.