I’m in South Africa, judging the Top 100 competition. Last night we headed off to Klein Constantia, for a fine wine braai in the vineyards hosted by Hans Astrom (pictured below) and his team. It was a lovely evening with some great wines, including three old treats – one of which was the South Africa’s first decent Pinot Noir, made illegally in 1981 by Tim Hamilton Russell.
There was something very special about drinking great South African wine looking over where the first vineyards were planted in South Africa, back in 1685.
Hamilton Russell Grand Cru Noir 1981 Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa
This doesn’t have a vintage indicated, but it’s actually the first (illegal) vintage of Hamilton Russell’s Pinot Noir, and it’s remarkably vital and alive. Sweet, herby and spicy with berryish fruit and some brightness. Notes of herbs and iodine, with a mineral twist. Fresh, fine and detailed. This is drinking history. 92/100
Nederberg Cabernet Sauvignon 1974 Paarl, South Africa
There may well have been a good dollop of Cinsault in this: it was allowed at the time. This has aged beautifully, and it’s a remarkable wine. Sweet, richly textured and juicy with blackberry and cherry fruit. It’s a little Port-like with complex notes of tar and spice. Still quite pure and with lots of fruit, it’s quite lovely. 94/100
Klein Constantia Perdeblokke Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Constantia, South Africa
This is a richly textured Sauvignon with grapefruit freshness, sweet pears and some fennel. Lovely crystalline fruit quality here: bold and delicious. 91/100
Klein Constantia No 382 Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Constantia, South Africa
This was from a single block, made naturally with no added sulfur dioxide apart from a little before bottling – 25 mg/l total and 5 mg/litre free. Powerful, spicy and textured with grapefruit, apples and pears. Perfumed and intense with a lovely spiciness. There’s just a hint of funkiness here, but it adds complexity rather than distracting. 93/100
Klein Constantia Metis Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Constantia, South Africa
This is a collaboration with Pascal Jolivet: winemaker Matthew Day has spent vintage there and a winemaker from Jolivet has done vintage at Klein Constantia. It’s a wild ferment with dirty juice and no SO2 at crushing. Very taut and fresh with focused grapefruit and lemons, and subtle herbiness. Pure, focused and mineral. 92/100
KWV Crusted Port 1966 South Africa
This is great! Sweet, ripe and pure with lovely black fruits. Smooth and intense with liqueur-like fruit and real purity. Rich, direct and quite beautiful: it has aged fabulously. 93/100
Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2011 Constantia, South Africa
Lively, intense and spicy with grape, white peach, grapefruit and raisin notes. Lovely detail here with a fine raisiny edge to the fruit. Shows precision and concentration, and in time this will be fabulous. 96/100