In the space of one day I had the chance to try some mind blowing sweet wines, new and old. The first experience was at Klein Constantia. Back in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Constantia estate made world renowned sweet wines. The estate was later split into three, but by this stage the production of the Constantia sweet wine had ceased, because of phylloxera, oidium and conflict.
Then in 1986, Klein Constantia revived the style, after some historical research of how it would originally have been made. They decided that it was a natural sweet wine made of Muscat, and since the first commercial release in 1987 they have made the wine, and refined the style. Groot Constantia also began making a version in 2003, and since then others have joined. It’s such an interesting wine style with an amazing history, I reckon it should have its own WO (Wine of Origin).
We tasted the 2013, which is the latest release. It’s remarkable.
Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2013 Constantia, South Africa
beautifully perfumed with sweet citrus, marmalade, grapes and honey. Spicy and intense with great freshness, sweetness and complexity. Nice spicy, raisiny notes with lovely focus and complexity. So fine, pure and complex. Has great acidity, and some tannin, balancing the sweetness beautifully. So fine. 97/100
Then we had an amazing treat. We got to try the 1875, which is one of the last wines of the old era of Constantia sweet wine. The analysis on this wine showed that it was a natural sweet, not fortified: it had 14.7% alcohol and 220 g/l sugar, and from the bottle, it was probably bottled in Europe from a barrel that was shipped.
Constantia Sweet Wine 1875
Aromatics of leather, spices, old furniture. Raisins and table groups with some honey, too. Lovely aromatics: sweetly smelling and quite pristine. Honeyed and smooth on the palate with real harmony, and notes of barley sugar, grapes, stewed raisins, bread pudding and smooth honeyed harmony. There’s lovely weight here. Such a treat to drink this. 96/100 (it seems silly to rate this)
Then we tried two exceptional sweet wines with Andrea Mullineux. The Mullineuxs have achieved a lot of success with their Straw Wine and the solera version, Olerasay. They now have a new wine, Essence, which is quite remarkable. It will be released in 250 ml bottles, and will be rather expensive. But it is unique, and brilliant. Because it has only partially fermented it has less upfront complexity, but it will be immortal.
Mullineux Straw Wine 2016 Swartland, South Africa
100% Chenin from two vineyards, picked at 22 Balling, then put in the shade of some trees. Takes a few weeks to dry out, which is judged visually. ‘It takes 2 days to press, and it drips out like honey,’ says Andrea, who says that it needs two bars for two days. ‘You need to pull phenolics out of it: it’s important to get complexity out as well as sugar,’ she says. It doesn’t go through malolactic at all because of the concentration. 360 g/l sugar, which is very high. Acids 11.5 and alcohol is 8. Powerful and complex with lovely acidity: very lively with some marmalade and apricot, as well as sweet raisins and lemons. Some orange peel, too. This has amazing complexity with great acidity and spicy structure. This takes between 8 and 10 months to finish fermenting. Super complex and viscous and very fresh indeed. 97/100
Mullineux Essence 2012
‘We have been fermenting this since 2012,’ says Andrea. It’s the hard press of the straw wine, which came out as drops with 80 Balling. The analysis is amazing: 4% alcohol, 15 g/l acid, and residual sugar is 680 g/l, bottled in 250 ml bottles. Single barrel, not topped at all, will sell for over 1000 R a bottle. Complex baked apple and raisin with incredible sweetness and balancing acidity. Has a viscous, intense character with some marmalade and spice. Astonishingly intense and powerful. Crystalline fruits, grapes, raisins. 95/100