Visiting Constantia Glen in South Africa

constantia glen

“Welcome!” says Gus C.G. Allen, an owner of Constantia Glen winery in Constantia, South Africa. It is one of the first warm days of the South African summer and Mr. Allen is looking tall and rather like the star of some TV Western against the rugged backdrop of Table Mountain, where his vineyards look healthy and neatly arranged against the clear blue sky.

We are here at Constantia Glen to experience one of the “newer” wineries in Constantia, though the property dates back to 1685. Even then, its owners knew the sandstone and granite soil was special. Recently a comprehensive soil survey conducted by viticultural experts Dawid Saayman, Eben Archer and 
Andrew Teubes (the latter staying on as viticultural consultant) revealed an almost perfect environment for the 
cultivation of high quality dryland vineyards as the clay-rich subsoil allows for excellent water holding capacity.

Mr. Allen’s wife’s family had owned the property for years, and it’s fascinating to look at this beautiful green expanse of hillside vineyards and hear about its history. Back in the 1600’s, the area had many farms, and a cannon would sound when a ship came into port so that the farmers knew to bring their produce to the ships.

Today the wind is strong enough to physically lift me up and move me a few inches to the right, yet the tiny budding flowers manage to hold onto the vine and are not nearly as affected. The wind is actually beneficial, helping the vines avoid powdery mildew and keep healthy.

While the farm is not officially organic, it is a new vineyard (2000 was its first planting) so it has not every seen chemicals. Ladybugs are used to rid the land of more harmful insects. Interestingly, years ago the area was considered too cool to grow quality grapes but today with global warming it is just right.

Mr. Allen takes me on a tour of the winery, and it is impeccably clean and pristine, with gravity fed presses and a small basket press to vinify their premium Bordeaux blends.

Upstairs in the glass enclosed tasting room we taste the Sauvignon Blanc 2011. I can’t help but think with its racy acidity and minerality it is a Sancerre. Mr. Allen responds that most of the vineyard blocks are planted on sites characterised by decomposed granite subsoils.
 A feature of these mica-rich soils is their ability to impart a wonderful minerality to the wine which I can really taste in every sip.

The two Bordeaux blends are the Constantia Glen Three and the Constantia Glen Five, with the “Five” containing the typical five grapes (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc) and the “Three” containing the major Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I taste both the 2008 and 2007, with the 2008 “Five” not yet released and the 2007 drinking very nicely!

Constantia Glen may be a young winery yet with its very special soil and A+ team of winemakers and consultants, very excited about its current wines and what it will be producing in the future

Constantia Glen

See all visits to S. Africa producers here

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