Tour Locations | Cellar Audio Guide: From Berry to Barrel to Bottle
LOCATION 11 | Cellar Audio Guide: From Berry to Barrel to Bottle
11. Blends: Wind, Rain, Sun
Narrator: Can you see the smaller fermentation tanks just ahead? They’re used for smaller batches.
Let’s go back to Boela’s minimalist philosophy for a moment. Look after the vines, he says, and you’ll make magic wines.
But what does that mean exactly? How do you give expression to the vineyard here, in the cellar?
Let’s start with the vineyards. Most of South Africa’s winegrowing regions get a lot of warm South African sunshine. There’s plenty of sunshine here too, but at Groot Constantia, this is softened by the shade of the mountain and breezes that blow in off two neighbouring oceans.
BOELA: So, we are 6 or 7 kilometres away from the Atlantic Ocean, and it really has a nice cooling influence…The heat spikes are probably, sometimes a good 10 degrees lower than if you go half an hour inland.
NARRATOR: Boela is referring to the Constantia Valley’s unique microclimate. More rain falls here each year than in London, and it isn’t too much of a stretch to say that estate has more in common with Bordeaux, France’s most famous winegrowing region, than it does with Stellenbosch, 50 kilometres up the road.
Even the soil is special, with a varied combination of granite and sandstone, courtesy of Table Mountain. Granite soils produce powerful, concentrated wines. Grapes grown in sandstone soils lend themselves to more floral, aromatic wines.
BOELA: The combination of those granite-based soils with that relatively cool climate we get from the Atlantic Ocean produces really special wines.
NARRATOR: This is easier to understand when you consider the wide range of different grape varieties that grow here. Of the reds, Pinotage, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon get a lot of space. You’ll also find plenty of the white Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay varieties. Then there are the Muscat de Frontignan grapes used for Grand Constance, which have pride of place on the estate’s oldest blocks.
Every one of these grapes has its own peculiarities and preferences, and where one variety will struggle, another will thrive.
If you’re an aspiring Constantia winemaker, Floricius has some advice.
FLORICIOUS: I would recommend in this area, on a south or southeast facing slope, a white variety like Sauvignon Blanc for instance. But remember we’re a cool climate area, so on the lower and more north facing slopes, we’ll go for red varieties, because red varieties need more sun, more heat, to ripen.
NARRATOR: A smaller number of Cabernet Franc and Semillon grapes are grown on the estate, but you won’t find bottles of either of these for sale. They’re used for blends – blends that are normally associated with that French winemaking region I mention a moment ago, Bordeaux.
JEAN: In Bordeaux, they produce Bordeaux blends.
NARRATOR: That’s Jean again, Groot Constantia’s CEO.
JEAN: They found that those varietals work well together, and we found basically the same, it works very well here together. That’s why we call our flagship wine the Gouverneurs Reserve; and that’s a Bordeaux blend, on the red side; on the white side, we’ve got also a Gouverneurs White, and that’s also a Bordeaux blend, Sauvignon Blanc and a Semillon.
NARRATOR: It really does all come down to the environment – to what people in the wine business call terroir.
JEAN: We’re farming in this magnificent terroir, and to make mediocre wine here is a sin.
NARRATOR: I’m sure you’re impatient to actually taste all of this wine now. Let’s head over to the last location, at end of the walkway, where I’ll put a cork in it.