So Constantia Bordeaux-style red blends can hold their own against some pretty stiff competition from the rest of the world (see yesterday’s post). But what of Constantia Shiraz? There’s growing excitement about the potential of relatively cool-climate sites to make wines of elegance and individuality, and although Constantia is not historically associated with Shiraz, the variety has enjoyed success here in recent times, the most notable producer being Eagles’ Nest.
The workshop that heralded the start of this year’s Constantia Fresh festival included two flights of Shiraz, the first designed to explore the concept of “elegance” and the second the concept of “power”. Tasting notes and scores as follows:
Allain Graillot Saint-Joseph 2006
Compelling nose showing red and black fruit, lilies, cinnamon and white pepper. Pure fruit, fresh acidity, oak perfectly judged. A wine of weightless intensity, both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. Score: 18/20.
Allain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2006
Spice and slight savoury note on the nose. A medium bodied wine with a subtle yet complex flavour profile – layers of ephemeral rather than intense flavour. Great balance.
Ripe dark fruit and prominent but not unattractive oak notes on the nose. Rich and concentrated – moderate acidity and smooth tannins. Fully ripe dark fruit and a hint of black pepper. Score: 16.5/20
Eagles’ Nest 2009
Shy nose. Full-bodied with moderate acidity and smooth tannins. Relatively hefty with plenty of ripe dark fruit and oak currently sitting apart. Score: 16/20
J.L. Chave Hermitage 2007
Oak-derived vanilla note on otherwise closed nose. The palate is full but lively with juicy red and black fruit, snappy acidity and fine tannins. Great palate weight and layers of flavour – fresh herbs, meat, spice, pepper. Score: 18/20
Groot Constantia Gouverneurs 2006
Red and black fruit and some reduction on the nose. Very rich and intense. Super-concentrated to the point of monolithic. Sweet fruited with a slight baked quality. Lively acidity provides something of a counter-point, while tannins are firm – a blockbuster.
Rostaing Côte-Rôtie 2006
Slightly jammy red fruit and spice on nose and palate. Lemon-like acidity provides good freshness. Somewhat rustic and lacking in complexity.
Theirry Allemand Cornas 2005
Expressive nose showing dark fruit, herbs and meat. Slight volatile acidity in evidence. Rich and full on the palate with very ripe, almost raisined fruit. Dense, earthy and thick textured. Good acidity lending it a sweet ‘n sour character. Love-it-or-hate-it stuff. Score: 16/20
So effectively, five Rhône wines next to three from Constantia. The Steenberg and the Eagles’ Nest were obviously handicapped by being much more primary (how interesting it would’ve been to have included the 2006 vintage of Eagles’ Nest, which was best in class at the 2008 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show next to the two Graillot wines). Even so, I did wonder if they would ever display the detail and nuance of the two French wines. In general, my instinct is that Constantia Shiraz is not quite in the same class as the best of the Rhône but is not completely off the pace, either – something that I think can be said of South African Shiraz in general.