Bot­tling Con­stan­tia’s essence

Mer­chant gets top white wine­mak­ers to come up with a dis­tinc­tive, evoca­tive drink

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFESTYLE - BIANCA COLE­MAN

WADE Bales is a né­go­ciant, the French word for a wine mer­chant who doesn’t own vine­yards, and who has wine made and bot­tles it un­der his own la­bel.

“It’s a term which has been around for 100, 200 years and what I’ve been do­ing for more than 20,” he says. A row of bot­tles on a shelf in his of­fice shows the his­tory and evo­lu­tion of Bales’s brand; the lat­est ad­di­tion is 2018’s The Con­stan­tia White, a clas­sic blend of Sau­vi­gnon Blanc and Semil­lon which em­bod­ies the sig­na­ture style of the re­gion.

To achieve this re­mark­able wine, Bales en­listed seven wine­mak­ers who col­lab­o­rated on the project, with the goal of bot­tling the essence of Con­stan­tia.

“I’m re­ally just the fa­cil­i­ta­tor, the guy be­hind it. The he­roes are the re­gions and the wine­mak­ers, and their spirit of al­liance,” says Bales.

“Wine is a very com­plex, com­pli­cated and con­fus­ing prod­uct, and gen­er­ally there’s too much choice, so peo­ple in­evitably be­come over­whelmed. They need a guide; that’s what we do for our clients – select wines for them based on their pref­er­ences, their bud­get or for an oc­ca­sion,” he adds.

“South Africa hasn’t re­ally done a good job of brand­ing and po­si­tion­ing its wine. We’re so good at mak­ing dif­fer­ent styles of wine that a sense of con­fu­sion and choice comes through and peo­ple don’t know what we are good at.”

Look­ing to France as the bench­mark for suc­cess­ful wine pro­duc­ing, where re­gions are well known for the va­ri­etals in which they spe­cialise, Con­stan­tia – where Bales has been based for 25 years – was the log­i­cal, and man­age­able, choice.

Af­ter much lively dis­cus­sion with the wine­mak­ers, it was de­cided the wine on which Con­stan­tia can hang its hat is a se­ri­ous blend of Sau­vi­gnon Blanc and Semil­lon.

This was only the first step.

Even “nor­mal” wine­mak­ing is a lot more com­pli­cated than the av­er­age con­sumer thinks when they’re stand­ing in front of the shelves in the bot­tle store or su­per­mar­ket, so blend­ing two va­ri­etals from seven farms – vine­yards, tanks and bar­rels – was quite a task.

“We wanted some­thing that’s not overly oaked, not overly green, har­mo­nious and bal­anced,” says Bales.

The wine­mak­ers brought ex­am­ples of their best Sau­vi­gnons and best Semil­lons to the ta­ble.

“They are all very pas­sion­ate and at the top of their game,” says Bales. Once they had all agreed on what was go­ing into this wine, JD Pre­to­rius from Steen­berg – who has a lot of solid ex­pe­ri­ence with white blends, as well as the ca­pac­ity in the cel­lar – was ap­pointed to put it all to­gether into three sam­ples.

“And he put up his hand for says Bales with a laugh.

From these three wines, one was cho­sen and then Pre­to­rius metic­u­lously blended the var­i­ous per­cent­ages which cul­mi­nated in The Con­stan­tia White.

“The col­lab­o­ra­tion in craft­ing this blend is tes­ta­ment to the re­spect and

it,” friend­ships in the Con­stan­tia val­ley,” says Jac­ques du Plessis, wine­maker at Con­stan­tia Uit­sig.

Says Justin van Wyk from Con­stan­tia Glen: “This is a great har­mo­nious blend of Sau­vi­gnon Blanc and Semil­lon, made from seven dif­fer­ent Con­stan­tia prop­er­ties by seven like­minded wine­mak­ers with the aim of pro­duc­ing a typ­i­cal Con­stan­tia white. Its sure to be a col­lec­tor’s item and cer­tainly has the po­ten­tial to age for a good few years in the cel­lar.”

The sec­ond in the Wade Bales Re­gional Series, The Stel­len­bosch

Red 2017, will be re­leased in the sec­ond half of this year.

With the end-goal be­ing to iden­tify the style of wine which best ex­presses each of the Cape’s fa­mous wine re­gions, this series is likely to strengthen South Africa’s lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion for recog­nised re­gional styles – in Stel­len­bosch this is Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon.

THE CON­STAN­TIA WHITE WINE­MAK­ERS Brad Pa­ton has made wine at Buiten­verwacht­ing since 2004. One of the old­est wine farms in the val­ley, it’s renowned for its award-win­ning Sau­vi­gnon Blanc. Founded in 1796, Buiten­verwacht­ing was part of Gov­er­nor Si­mon van der Stel’s orig­i­nal Con­stan­tia farm, the birth­place of wine in South Africa.

Justin van Wyk has worked at Con­stan­tia Glen since 2008, spe­cial­is­ing in mak­ing cool­cli­mate wine blends. He prac­tises what he preaches: “Re­spect the ter­roir, and work with it as much as you can to en­hance the qual­ity of the wine, while main­tain­ing the iden­tity and sense of place”. He con­trib­uted the farm’s sought-af­ter Sau­vi­gnon Blanc and Semil­lon.

Jac­ques du Plessis, wine­maker and viti­cul­tur­ist at Con­stan­tia Uit­sig, com­ments: “The chance to gain con­fi­dence with cooler cli­mate viti­cul­ture and wine-mak­ing in Con­stan­tia has been very valu­able. I pre­fer work­ing for smaller, vine­yard-fo­cused winer­ies that al­low me to try new things”.

¡ He con­trib­uted

Semil­lon.

Boela Ger­ber has been wine­maker since 2001 at Groot Con­stan­tia, the long­est-stand­ing wine­maker in the val­ley at the old­est wine farm in the south­ern hemi­sphere which cel­e­brated its 333rd an­niver­sary in 2018. “I want to ex­press a sense of place in all our wines, a taste of Con­stan­tia’s char­ac­ter,” he says. Ger­ber con­trib­uted Sau­vi­gnon Blanc.

Matthew Day has worked in the cel­lar at Klein Con­stan­tia since 2008. The cel­lar is renowned for its sin­gle vine­yard and sin­gle bloc ex­pres­sions of cool-cli­mate Sau­vi­gnon Blanc – which went into The Con­stan­tia White – and for its recre­ation of Vin de Con­stance, the leg­endary dessert wine im­mor­talised by the likes of Charles Dick­ens, Jane Austen and Baude­laire.

Gre­gory Brink Louw, wine­maker and viti­cul­tur­ist at Sil­ver­mist, has worked tire­lessly for two decades to cre­ate the only or­gan­i­cally cer­ti­fied wine es­tate in the Con­stan­tia Val­ley. Set high on Con­stan­tia Nek, it is fa­mous for its or­ganic, sin­gle vine­yard Sau­vi­gnon Blanc – which added com­plex­ity to The Con­stan­tia White.

JD Pre­to­rius has been wine­maker at Steen­berg since 2009. An­other of the his­toric wine farms of the Con­stan­tia Wine Val­ley, it was founded in 1682. Its cel­lar is renowned for its sig­na­ture Magna Carta blend of Sau­vi­gnon Blanc and Semil­lon – both of which make up a key com­po­nent of The Con­stan­tia White, defin­ing the val­ley’s sig­na­ture style.

¡

the

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five-star

TAST­ING NOTES

The Con­stan­tia White 2018 is a clas­sic blend of Sau­vi­gnon Blanc (67%) and Semil­lon (33%).

It shows fresh aro­mas of pas­sion fruit, net­tle and lime, fol­low­ing through on the palate with lus­cious flavours of cit­rus and win­ter melon from the Sau­vi­gnon Blanc com­po­nent. An un­der­tone of sweet spice is de­rived from the Semil­lon bar­rel-fer­mented in French oak, which adds com­plex­ity to this Con­stan­tia wine of ori­gin.

Wade Bales is your per­sonal wine ad­viser.

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