Constantia Vin de Constance 1991-2019
BY NEAL MARTIN | JULY 25, 2022
Matt Day, together with co-proprietor Hans Astrom, flew from South Africa recently
to present a rare vertical tasting of their Vin de Constance that included the
forthcoming 2019 vintage. As a quick primer: in the 18th and 19th
centuries, Vin de Constance was made purely from Muscat de Frontignan but with
shrivelled, not botrytised berries. It was one of the most esteemed wines in
the world but disappeared in 1872 when winemaking in Constantia ceased,
returning with the first commercialised vintage in 1986. For more information
on its history, viticulture and winemaking, I recommend reading my previous
Day tutored an insightful vertical at Trivet restaurant, despite an undiagnosed
blood clot in his leg that sent him straight to hospital upon his return. He’s
doing fine now thankfully!
Day for his views on the 2019 Vin de Constance. “The 2019 is getting closer to
the point where we are no longer a sweet wine. I am really happy with the
balance. Even though it’s probably got the lowest total acidity, it is the best
in terms of freshness. We have been working really hard over the past ten
years, and 2019 really showcases the evolution of our journey. I can’t
wait to see how it develops.” So without further ado, let’s crack on with the
wines from oldest to youngest.
Vin de Constance is a vintage that I have not tasted for a long time,
chosen because Matt Day feels that the residual sugar level, variable from
vintage to vintage at that time, correlates closely to today’s. It has a deep
amber hue, darker than the equivalent of a Sauternes of similar age. The nose
offers scents of caramel, crème brûlée and tangerine, clean and attractive,
though not intense. The palate displays fine weight and depth, viscous in
texture with a slight nuttiness developing over the course of 20 minutes.
Mandarin and desiccated orange peel linger on a finish that has fine length.
Personally, I would not cellar this longer because it is at its peak. 92/Drink
Vin de Constance has a very aromatic bouquet with yellow plum, pressed
flowers, a touch of kerosene and a background garrigue scent. The palate is
medium-bodied with fine definition, quite spicy with a marmalade-driven finish.
It doesn’t quite have the panache of the 1991, but I appreciate its length. A
little outclassed in the company of other vintages on this occasion. 90/Drink 2022-2028.
Vin de Constance has a lucid amber hue. Tangerine, orange peel and a touch
of wet wool on the nose, becoming increasingly petrolly with time, this has
verve and intensity. The palate is underpinned by a fine bead of acidity that
cuts through its viscosity, barley sugar and quince, smooth and harmonious with
an utterly seductive finish. I feel this is beginning to reach its plateau, but
it has the energy to remain cruising at high altitude for a number of years. 96/Drink
Vin de Constance contains 165g/L of residual sugar. This has a wonderful
bouquet with layers of wild honey and acacia, little-changed since I last
encountered it a couple of years back. The palate is concentrated,
multi-faceted yet primal at the moment. I suspect this vintage is maturing at a
glacial pace, but I cannot wait to taste this at 12-15 years of age.
Outstanding. 97/Drink 2028-2055.
Vin de Constance is matured for 18 months in 500-liter Hungarian and French
oak barrels, 50% new, followed by another 18 months in oak foudres. The
growing season saw more sunlight hours than previous vintages (2,998 compared
to 2,588 in 2018 for example). It has an understated nose, almost
Sauternes-like even if it does not contain an ounce of botrytis. Subtle nutty
aromas percolate through the wild honey and quince scents, wax resin and
lanolin. The palate is medium-bodied and very pure. Disarmingly fine acidity, it
is slightly Germanic towards the finish. with a hint of lemongrass lingering on
the aftertaste. This is a superb Vin de Constance under the tenure of Matt Day
that is a step closer to what you might confusingly call a non-sweet dessert
wine. 97/Drink 2027-2050.
Anwilka is a wine that I feel has not really kicked on with maturity in
bottle. Compared to more recent vintages, this lacks a little presence on the
nose, quite gamey and tertiary in style, touches of cigar humidor developing in
the glass. It is quite sweet on the entry with vestiges of blue fruit, soft in
texture and needing more grip towards the finish. There is a slight greenness
that is becoming more pronounced with age. Drink soon. 87/Drink
Anwilka, a blend of 55% Syrah, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Petit Verdot,
offers plenty of dark berry fruit, smoke and hickory on the nose, quite minty
and still quite tight. The palate is medium-bodied with firm, slightly coarse
tannins. Broad-shouldered at first, then it somehow musters more refinement and
harmony towards the Médoc-like finish. This is a well-crafted Anwilka, though I
personally would like to see the contribution of Petit Verdot limited to 10% as
it can steal the limelight from the other varieties. 90/Drink 2024-2036.
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