Four decades of Vin de Constance with head winemaker Matthew Day

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

20 September 2019

With modern consumers thirsting for drinks with low sugar, low alcohol and fewer calories, it seems there’s little room left for sweet wine in the UK's wine lists. And it doesn’t certainly help that stickies are often served at the end of the meal, when guests are likely sated.

But some oenological jewels are worth the extra effort when selling to your guests, as demonstrated at a recent vertical tasting of Klein Constantia’s much-celebrated Vin de Constance at London's Institute of Masters of Wine.

Klein Constantia's head winemaker Matthew Day
Klein Constantia's head winemaker Matthew Day

Head winemaker Matthew Day (pictured right) flew in from South Africa to show its evolution over time by presenting 10 vintages spanning four decades from 1987 to 2015.

The 10 wines showed a wide array of flavors and aromas, reflecting the different ages, yet all, with few exceptions, displayed common characteristics. All wines had a fresh, balsamic note to them, which fluctuated between mint and English breakfast tea, and boasted a coating, creamy palate regardless of age.

Matthew Day’s wines

Day’s modern approach made his wines – 2012, his first vintage at Klein Constantia, and 2015 – really stand out, with their delicate fruit and floral character and exuberant freshness.

In absolute terms, the 2012 was the best of the flight, showing perfect balance between complexity, quality of the fruit and fresh acidity. The nose was a triumph of aromas, from floral to lemon peel, vanilla and tea leaves, with just a touch of dried fruit.

‘The quality of the fruit was unbelievable,’ said Day. ‘The grapes had so much sugar that it took four days to press because the skins disintegrated and created a thick pulp.’

Day's other wine, the 2015, was instead the freshest of the bunch, almost austere in comparison to the 2012, with a mineral, flinty note and more citrus than stone fruit on the nose.

This flavour profile was a deliberate choice: the 2015 was the first vintage crafted with Klein Constantia’s new winemaking equipment. We should expect, explained Day, that all subsequent vintages will be showing a similar character.

The previous vintages

The 1987 (oldest wine of the flight) was impressive: vibrant, with a nice glycerine palate, flavours of cola and mushrooms, dried figs and eucalyptus.

The 1989, meanwhile, tasted much older than it was, potentially due to the bottle's bad seal and the low sugar content – with only 84g/l, this was the 'driest' of the tasting.

Moving forward, the remaining vintages – 1991, 1999, 2007 and 2008 – were all delicious, but the 2004 and the 1994 best showcased the Vin de Constance’s potential at two different stages of development.

The former was the wine’s ideal middle-age expression, with timid signs of youth complemented by symptoms of its older age. Candied apricot and lemon peel were all there, plus dried nuts and a touch of mint.

In the latter, the fruit was significantly tuned down, while liquorice, coffee, wood and forest floor added to the overall complexity. The ideal vintage for those who appreciate very mature expressions.

Vin de Constance is available through Mentzedorff. For info on available vintages contact orders@mentzendorff.co.uk

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