Klein Constantia old wine tasting

By , 28 June 2017



Yesterday a tasting of various old wines from the Klein Constantia library presented by managing director Hans Astrom and winemaker Matt Day, my three stand-out wines as follows:

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc Noble Late Harvest 1998
Alc 14.21% RS 138.7g/l TA 8.8g/l pH3.7
Dark orange with a pale rim. Burnt sugar, orange and a little fynbos on the nose. Terrifically rich and concentrated on the palate yet simultaneously fresh, the wine showing lovely acid integration, the result being that it moves really well in the mouth. The finish, meanwhile, is long and dry. Smashing stuff.

Editor’s rating: 95/100.

Klein Constantia Marlbrook 1990


Klein Constantia Malbrook 1990
Alc 12.0% RS 1.0g/l TA 5.6g/l pH 3.6
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. A somewhat controversial wine as some in attendance found it too lean and attenuated but I thought it was supremely elegant. An attractive floral note before red and black berries, cigar box and a hint of undergrowth. Lovely fruit purity, fresh acidity and fine tannins. Great balance and very little decay in evidence.

Editor’s rating; 94/100.

Klein Constantia Riesling 1987
Alc 11.5% RS 16.0g/l TA 6.6g/l pH 3.3
Amber in colour. An enticing nose – a floral top note before lime, apple, mint humbug, spice and the merest hint of petrol. Lean with racy acidity and a pithy finish. Quite thrilling to drink and you don’t say that about SA Riesling often.

Editor’s rating: 93/100.

The rest of the line-up included:
Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 1995 – 89/100
Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2002 – 88/100
Klein Constantia Perdeblokke Sauvignon Blanc 2007 – 92/100

Klein Constantia Semillon 2004 – 90/100

Klein Constantia Mme Marlbrook 2004 – 90/100

Klein Constantia Chardonnay 2007 – 91/100

Klein Constantia Riesling 1996 – 88/100

Klein Constantia Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 – 90/100
Klein Constantia Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 – 87/100

On the whole, a most impressive line-up, serving to remind that is without doubt one of the country’s finest wine-growing properties.


6 comment(s)

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    Kevin R | 29 June 2017

    Just my two cents… I think there is something more special when using wild yeasts, an added dimension of the terroir

    joe | 28 June 2017

    Is it possible to buy the 1998 NLH from KC still? Or anyone else, for that matter?

    Christian, do you think the 1998 NLH was from an especially good vintage, or are most vintages of it likely to be about as good after 19 years?

      Christian | 29 June 2017

      Hi Joe, Tough question. On the one hand, I think SA late harvest/botrytised wines tend to age more rapidly than Sauternes or TBA especially in terns of colour but as we know, KC does do these wines extremely well – what was striking about the 1998 was the lack of acid “burn” that SA sometimes show.

    Kwispedoor | 28 June 2017

    I had a 1998 KC Riesling in April and it was stupidly good. We really do drink our Rieslings too soon in SA. Way too soon. A thumbs up to KC who has, so far, had the foresight to not follow other Constantia producers in pulling out their Riesling. And those Sauvignon NLH’s have always been a bit underrated.

    Where have all the pyrazines (remember, some people say that ALL pyrazines get more prominent with time in the bottle) in that ’90 Marlbrook gone, Christian? Come on, with 12% ABV, coming from a cool (in SA terms) site, it should be a green bomb, right?

    I’m not really trying to open this well-trodden debate again. These are in fact rhetoric questions, as nobody can seemingly come forth with a sensible answer to the real question. Which is: “How come SA winemakers were historically capable of making good 11.5% to 13% ABV Cabernet and Cabernet blends which show no or negligible pyrazines, especially after maturation, while the current ones simply can’t?”

    Sure, there is the question of climate change, but it only accounts for a very small percentage of actual warming and, in any event, cooler sites have been utilised since. Despite virus issues, enough clean plant material and older vines can be accessed nowadays. We’ve seen a massive increase in knowledge and scientific progress. If the problem is with more effective yeasts, why have the industry not taken this up with the manufacturers or made concerted efforts to revert to co-called natural/wild yeast fermentation? Surely there must be a good reason(s) for this massive change in the make-up of these types of wines (it’s not a small shift, so timid reasons won’t ever explain it)? Something that simply makes sense? I’m not holding my breath for anything else than more rhetoric, though…

      Christian | 28 June 2017

      Hi Kwispedoor, The debate around pyrazine character on SA Cab and Bordeaux-style red blends is crucial and good on you for keeping it on the agenda.

      After yesterday’s tasting, it strikes me once again that we too often tend to see matters of wine appreciation in terms of binary opposites, so when it comes to pyrazine character wines are assessed as either “green” or “not green” whereas the right sort of “green” can actually be to a wine’s advantage.

      Interestingly enough, the least successful red yesterday was the Cab Sauv 2000, which also happened to have the highest alcohol at 14.2%. My insight here would be that “optimal ripeness” is not something which is exactly measurable but rather a matter of judgement on the part of viticulturist and winemaker.

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