Author Archives: Hennie Taljaard

Uitkyk Carlonet 1982

Uitkyk’s Carlonet, first registered in 1957, was one of the top wines during the 50s. Production ceased during the 60s and reintroduced with the 1973 vintage. I have tasted the 73 and it remains one of the best old wines I’ve ever had the pleasure to drink. Subsequently I’ve had the 74 and 76 of which the latter was the better of the two but not on the level of the 73. A 1982 opened recently showed very well indeed. Whereas the 73 has an old-world elegance and sternness, the 82 is more new-world and showing definite Cabernet characteristics. I would rate it a very close 2nd to the 73 perhaps for the only reason that I find the old-world style more appealing.

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An early Groot Constantia “reproduction”

It was with interest that I read a newspaper article from 1927 referring to Constantia wine being reproduced under wine merchant P. B. Burgoyne. It reminded me of an image in KWV’s book, of a bottle, shown below, which I think closely fits the description given in the article and is likely the same bottle. Burgoyne was the same company that gave Alto its first contract to supply Alto Rouge.

Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), Saturday 15 January 1927, page 4

ORIGIN OF CONSTANTIA

Messrs, P. B. Burgoyne &. Co, Limited, the Empire wine Merchant, of London, have forwarded to the Register Office a bottle of Constantia. It is a clever and artistic copy on one of two old bottles in possession of Messrs. P. B. Burgoyne and Co., Limited. These— containing Constantia of the vintage year 1795 – have rested quietly for some 125 years in the cellars of a famous Norfolk country house. The wine they contain is still in excellent condition, and is perfectly palatable. The antique ”finish” of the bottles, which it the result of many months labour of love by the foremost glass chemist in this country, is perfectly permanent, and will stand ordinary treatment. This bottle has caused immense interest in the English glass industry, and the method of its production remains a mystery. Constantia was famous in England and on the Continent well before the end of the 18th century. It was, in fact, supplied to the Kings of France. It maintained great popularity for many years in England, and was one of the favourite dessert wines Queen Victoria. After 1861, however, the demand for South African wines suffered serious dislocation through the removal of the preferential tariffs into the United Kingdom. Since the war South African wines have been returning rapidly to favour, owing to the efforts made by Messrs. Burgoyne & Co., at the request of the South African wine industry. The Constantia district is centred around the large property of Constantia, behind Table Mountain, and its history dates back to the seventeenth century. Groot Constantia has been from the earliest days of the old Dutch colony connected with wine, and is now the experimental wine farm of the Government of the Union of South Africa. The original name of the vineyards of the Constantia Estate was ‘Constance’ (a family name, dating back to Governor van der Stel, the original owner). This name appears as a seal on the original eighteenth century bottle, and on the reproduction. A pen drawing of the dwelling house on the Groot Constantia Estate appears on the label of the bottle. This building was unhappily damaged by fire recently, but is to be rebuilt in its original state by the South African Government.

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Photo taken from KWV: 1918 – 1993, by D.J. van Zyl.

 

Porseleinberg vertical

Last night a vertical of the 2010 – 2016 hosted by winemaker Callie Louw.

Tasting notes:

2010 – showing some tertiary age. slight oxidation. pungent lift. and again those tannins!

2011 – love the nose but cannot explain it…iron. stony. grainy. raised only in concrete. tannins starting to relax… still prominent. My favourite.

2012 – chocolate. lovely. soft fruit. only aged in concrete. tannins.

2013- smoky. detailed, pure, chalky tannins. classic. Callie’s favourite. must agree.

2014 – biggest vintage on account of rain in the growing season. meaty nose but more penetrating than 16. rich. relaxed (for a Porseleinberg!).

2015 – more subdued on nose. elegant. lingering chalky tannins. Callie thinks vintage not very exciting. I disagree.

2016 – meaty olive (opulent) nose. tight palate. liquorice. biggest alcohol. very warm vintage.

Overall:

1. Porseleinberg vintages get better with age. 10 to 13 showing real interest and personality.

2. Tannins on every vintage a hallmark.

3. 10 and 11 – dry-land farming. 12 onward post-harvest irrigation.

4. Porseleinberg has a characteristic  flavour profile showing meat, iron, blood, game, olive..

6 June 2018

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Vinous gems

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The line-up (from left to right): Kanonkop 1976, Middelvlei 1982, KWV Roodeberg 1977, Zonnebloem 1970 (the wine in the glass), Nederburg 1973.

 

Yesterday a tasting of some of the great old names of Cape wine.

Overall the wines showed very well with elegance and purity and that vinous quality that only comes with age. Notes:

Zonnebloem 1970 – Had the richest colour of the lot and showed the most body and flavour. Also slightly less acid than the others. Excellent

Nederburg 1973 – Very elegant with good acidity. Excellent

KWV Roodeberg 1977 – Typical old Cape wine and not unlike old Chateau Libertas. 1977 was said to be a poor vintage but this wine was excellent.

Middelvlei 1982 – Showing more modern profile and Cabernet leafiness. Very good.

Kanonkop 1976 – My first impression was that it was spoiled, but with time becoming better although it showed a foreign-tasting sharpness. Good.

 

Constantia visit – 1829

Extract quoted from “Military Reminiscences by Colonel James Welsh”

14 March 1829, Constantia

This garden is well worth going thirteen miles to see.  The road, which is generally good, passes through a beautiful country, and by many delightful rural habitations; which are here, as in England, scattered all over the plains ; though I have seen nothing elsewhere to rival Constantia in neatness and picturesque beauty. The house is uncommonly clean, and well furnished; and the gardens are laid out in squares, with walks and myrtle hedges on both sides. It is situated at the fool of a hill, haying a grove of chestnut-trees at the upper extremity; and while we were walking round, admiring the many inviting-trees, covered with apples, peaches, pears, medlars, apricots, &c., and small dwarfish bushes, only three or four feet high, bending with rich clusters of purple grapes; the gentleman of the house had ordered a cold collation to be prepared for us: and leading us into his  extensive warehouse, insisted on our tasting in succession the red and White Constantia, Frontignac, Pontac, and Steine ; the latter a very light wine, and only half the value of Constantia. Indeed, so extremely civil and obliging was he to us, that before our departure a few of the Benedicts of the party purchased some twenty pounds worth each, of the first sort, for home consumption. I remarked that the wine was kept in immense butts. I should suppose containing a dozen of pipes each. We then adjourned to the dwelling-house, and having had a long walk in the keen air, enjoyed a delicious repast of the finest fruit, just plucked from the trees, with wine, of the same produce; and when obliged to take our departure, it was with real regret we left this delightful retreat.

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Photograph depicting Anreith’s pediment on the Groot Constantia wine cellar

White Leipzig: Relic from the Nuy Valley

The museum at old Matjiesfontein station holds an interesting bottle of White Leipzig from pre-Union (pre-1961) days. Complete with contents and label it is very rare to find such an old white wine from South Africa.

According to Leipzig’s website wine was produced there from the 1890s to 1963 and enjoyed by the British Royalty during their visit to South Africa after World War 2. They sipped on a luxurious white blend called “The White Leipzig”.

Lawrence Green wrote in “I heard the old men say” (1964) the following interesting account:

I must put in a good word for White Leipzig. It is nearly thirty years since I visited the Rabie brothers at Leipzig, Nuy, and saw the light railway used to rush the wine grapes from vineyard to cellar during the vintage. Many a bottle of their dry white wine have I enjoyed since then.

The current owners once again produce a “White Leipzig” and the 2017 vintage is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay & Viognier.

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The Groot Constantia Vineyard – 1856 & 1858

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The following extracts is taken from the National Library of Australia:

Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), Wednesday 17 December 1856, page 3


The Constantia Vineyard. The following information was collected by Lt. Du Cane, &. £., during his short stay at the Cape en route to England and transmitted by him to a friend in this colony: —

”Some of the Cape bush is exceedingly like the Western Australian bush, flowers and all We went to Constantia and I asked Mr. Cloete several questions about his methods of growing and manufacture of the vine and wine, and will put down what may be useful to your vine-growers. All his vines are short pruned ; two eyes as at the Swan. Long pruning he says will, no doubt, give more fruit, but the disadvantages are that more labour is required while the vines, as they yield more will require more manure and that renders the quality of the grape inferior. He only manures once in eight or ten years and with common stable manure, but bones are the best. In this hot climate the long pruning from allowing less shade for the grapes renders them liable to be spoilt by the sun. He does not mix brandy with his wine, but says it is necessary with some thin wines. Here they are allowed to distil any quantity they like, but only the lower classes drink the home made spirits. He never mixes the different sorts of grapes except in the case of red pontac which is too pulpy to give much juice, and he therefore mixes with it red muscatel, but there is none of that miscellaneous mixing as at the Swan. The grapes are first pressed with the feet in two operations and afterwards in a screw press working in a wooden box about 4 feet cube with an inner lining of thin wood pierced with holes about as big as a pea. The juice runs in between the box and the lining and out by a hole at the lower part of one side. No wine is sent out until it is three years old. Travelling, and keeping beyond this, does not improve it. It is essential that the casks should be kept thoroughly clean, and if the wine is light the casks should be kept full to prevent acidity. Mr Cloete has 45 acres in his vineyard and if he gets 25 casks of 150 gallons per annum, he considers he has had a good season. His store is long, high, clean and beautifully cool. The soil of Constantia is like that of Alverstoke and its neighbourhood— a dry brown coloured soil, but some of it is redder, more like that ia York and Toodyay. It is composed of decomposed granite mixed with day, and Mr Cloete says the drier it is the better it is. At the Cape they make beautiful shady roads by planting fir trees and oaks by the road side. They would flourish well at the Swan, the soil, &c, being similar.

HORTICULTURIST.

THE VINEYARDS AND WINES OF CONSTANTIA.

[We have been kindly favoured by Henry Evans, Esq., of Evandale, with the following paper on the wines of Constantia, written by the Hon. George Fife Anges, on the occasion of his recent visit to those far- famed vineyards.]

 

During our visit to the Cape, in February, 1858, we devoted a day to visiting the Constantia estates, situated about fourteen miles from Cape Town ; being anxious to see them, not only on account of their universal celebrity, but hoping to obtain some information relative to the manufacture of wines that might be useful in South Australia. Little Constantia was the first we approached; but, unfortunately, the proprietor, Mr. Vann Reimann, was from home, and not being able to see much there, or obtain much information, we first took a cursory survey of the place. Most of the soil is very poor, and the wine in consequence inferior, we tasted the kinds they had on hand, but they were made from last seasons grapes, as Mr. Van R. always sells his wine before it attains any age. We then proceeded on to Great Constantia, belonging to Mr. Cloete, who received us most cordially. This gentleman belongs to one of the most ancient families in the colony, and his ancestors have resided at Constantia for upwards of a century and a half, and have paid great attention to the cultivation of the grape and manufacture of wine. Without entering into any description of the grounds, scenery, &c., I would just state that it is situated at the base of the range, of which Table Mountain forms part. The land undulates gently, and faces the S.W. The soil appears to be composed of a sort of decomposed granite and sandstone, and a kind of peaty substance mixed with it, which seems, like the remains of decayed roots of plants, as if the grounds were originally overgrown with the scrub, which covers the country round about for a considereble space. One portion of the vineyard, however, was composed of a reddish soil, like Evandale. The vines are planted in rows, about four feet apart, and are never suffered to attain a greater height than 2½ to 3 feet. This practice is adopted to prevent the vine wasting itself in the production of leaves and branches, requiring a large quantity of the sap of the main stem, which otherwise would go towards the nourishment and perfecting of the fruit, and also preventing the free access of air and the rays of the sun. which of course are highly important. The ground is kept very free from weeds, and is often hoed over ; this prevents the surface of the land from getting baked by the sun, and allows any rain that may happen to fall to sink to a greater depth in the soil. When the grapes ripen, about the commencement of February, they are exposed as much as possible to the rays of the sun by plucking off surplus leaves ; all decayed and bruised grapes are removed, and when they become almost as dry as raisins, they are gathered. It is not desirable to mix grapes (even of the same kind) grown on soils of different qualities. The season and state of the atmosphere at the time of gathering the grapes materially effect the wine. It is an acknowledged fact that the flavour of the wine is produced from the soil, and a poor soil is the best for obtaining a superior wine. Bordeaux wine is grown in a quartz ore sand. Johannisberg in disintegrated slate, both poor and porous. Rich soil is not approved of. Mr. Cloite only manures his vines about once in 4 to 6 years, and then but sparingly. Good wine is never made from grapes that produce abundantly, small berries, growing loosely on branches that are not very large, and not too many of them on one vine, and whose flavour is not approved of for table purposes, make the best wine on the Rhine, such as Reisling, Medoc, Pincanx, Lachryma Christi, is highly recommended for wine. The grapes are pressed by men’s feet-the press is found to crush the stones and injure the flavour of the wine. The grain is fermented in large deep vats, shallow ones are not desirable. If the juice is watery, boiled must is recommended to improve the quality of it. The great object is to prevent acetous fermentation without the use of alcohol. To absorb the carbonic acid gas, evolved during the process of fermentation, the insertion of one end of a bent tube in the fermenting tub is recommended, and the immersion of the other end in water, this would effect the retention of the alcohol, and the aroma of the grape. Mr. Cloete’s cellar is a large oblong building, about 140 feet long, without any underground apartment. The walls are thick and built of stone with apertures all round provided with shutters. The floor is composed of a sort of concrete. The upper apartment is used as a store, and roofed with thatch covered with plaster. It is kept very clean and constantly washed out, which preserves a cool temperature.

Four kinds of wine are made by Mr. Cloete, viz:

constantia pontac, £18 per cask of 19 gallons; constantia white, £12 per cask of 12 gallons; constantia frontignac, £15 per cask of 19 gallons; constantia red, £12 per cask of 12 gallons.

We tasted all the kinds ; they were three years old with a rich full flavour, and perfectly free from spirits of any kind. He makes a common sort of wine which is not honoured with the prefix of Constantia.

 

References

17 Dec 1856 – The Constantia Vineyard. – Trove – 17 Dec 1856 – The Constantia Vineyard. – The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901) http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66005394 via @TroveAustralia

19 Jul 1858 – HORTICULTURIST. – Trove – 19 Jul 1858 – HORTICULTURIST. – The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889) http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article781296 via @TroveAustralia

Image Source:

https://howlingpixel.com/wiki/Groot_Constantia