Constantia Glen Three 2009

By , 11 November 2010

Constantia Glen Three 2009, Constantia Glen Three 2009


Constantia Glen Three 2009, Constantia Glen Three 2009

Constantia Glen.

It’s curious how some new farms instantaneously enjoy a high profile and others wallow in obscurity for years. When Constantia Glen released its maiden vintage 2007 reds last year, it had most critics gushing, no doubt partly persuaded by the eloquence of Karl Lambour as winemaker while the involvement of Dominique Hébrard, former co-owner and manager of Château Cheval Blanc as consultant only re-enforces seriousness of intent.

It perplexed me when I did not share quite the same enthusiasm as some of my colleagues for these wines and I asked Lambour if I might re-look them as well as see how subsequent vintages are shaping up.

The first of the two wines currently available is Constantia Saddle 2007 (priced at R150 a bottle) consisting of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Cabernet Franc and 23% Merlot, and having spent 13.5 months in oak, 100% new. On the nose, ripe red fruit and an attractive herbal note. The palate shows good fruit expression, gentle acidity and soft tannins. Overall, I thought it represented fair value for money, well made without being spectacularly good.

On to the Constantia Glen 2007, which originally went on sale at R350 a bottle but was then subsequently repositioned to sell at R245 – draw your own conclusions. The blend in this case is 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 18% Malbec, 11.5% Petit Verdot and 11.5% Cabernet Franc and the wine again spent 13.5 months in barrel, 100% new.  I found this wine less convincing, ripe on entry but with a green, almost astringent finish.

Lambour only arrived at Constantia Glen in Novemer 2006 and says that up to 2007, grapes were sold off, the vineyards consequently managed for high yields and there’s a sense that the vines were still adjusting to being farmed for top-end wine. It is also noteworthy that he describes 2007 as his “most difficult” to date with intermittent rain throughout harvest.

While cool-climate Constantia is generally celebrated for its white wines, the focus at Constantia is on red varieties, these making up 80% of the 120-ton production. The property sits in the saddle between Table Mountain and Constantiaberg and the generally north-facing vineyards receive more afternoon sun than most farms in the area, allowing for optimal ripeness of red varieties which can otherwise be “green”.

When Lambour presents the yet-to-be released 2008 and 2009 vintages, there are some dramatic quality improvements to be noted and it’s clear that he’s already got a much better fix on what the property is capable of.

Constantia Glen Three 2009, Constantia Glen Three 2009

Louis Nel of Hidden Valley listens attentively to Constantia Glen's Karl Lambour.

Constantia Saddle will be remained Constantia Glen Three, the Constantia Glen to become Constantia Glen Five, the two wines supposedly differing only in stylistic rather than qualitative terms. The price differential will however remain on the basis that consumers need a “stepping stone” from one tier to the next.

As for stylistics, the Three might be viewed as reminiscent of Bordeaux Left Bank and Five of Right Bank. If you like your wines to show fruit purity, freshness and firm but fine tannins opt for Three; on the other hand, if you prefer them to be fleshy, voluptuous and smooth textured, choose Five. I think 2008 is a definite step up on 2007, both wines showing great intensity of fruit and hence could be described as rather modern (Lambour admits that he tried to “push the envelope” in terms of ripeness) while the wines of 2009 really are excellent  and get me truly excited about the potential of this property.


3 comment(s)

  • Angela Lloyd11 November 2010

    I’ll back you, Christian, on your positive comments about the 2009 (was it the final blend you tasted?). I tasted the 2007, 2008, components of and possible 2009 blend earlier this year; there are clear improvements year on year, partly vintage driven, but more significantly, thanks to the team’s better understanding of their vineyards. I think many consumers don’t understand the importance of this aspect to producing quality wine. Constantia Glen is also very lucky to have the expertise of Dominique Hebrard to call on; when faced with around 40 lots – different blocks, varieties – and between two and ten barrels of each lot, blending is far from easy. Constantia Glend once again proves that it’s foolhardy to pigeonhole regions with varieties or wine styles.

  • Constantia Glen Sauvignon Blanc 2007 | What I Drank Last Night16 February 2011

    […] a previous post on Constantia Glen, see here. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, […]

  • Smirrie10 June 2012

    I had the saddle 2006 last night with lamb shank and it was awsome.

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