Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Mimi Avery in South Africa

We arrived at Klein Constantia on a beautiful wind free day which they were very pleased about as wind can burn the grapes and although most of their harvest was finished the remaining grapes that we drying nicely and developing noble rot for their infamous sweet wine Vin de Constance. Also they had lost some of their potential in November due to strong winds funnelling through the vineyards and drought at flowering.

This was on top of the fact that they have started a rigorous programme to naturally reduce the vigour of the vines, which will ultimately increase the volume and quality of production. The programme involved covercrops and lack of weed killing which is helping to reduce soil compaction and increase nitrogen fixing but initially it is reducing the crop whilst the plants adjust to the “competition”. The vines are tipped to encourage energy to the grapes and not the foliage. Nearer harvest they are leaf plucked on the morning sun side and left shaded on the afternoon sun side.

The vineyards are planted with 80% white varietals and 20% red.

Adam Mason, originally trained by Jean-Marc Saboa, the illustrious winemaker of our Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc, showed us round the vineyards on the back of his buckie. We stopped to see new plantings, they re-plant every 15 or so years to keep yields to a maximum and viruses to a minimum. The prevalent problem is mealie bug for which they import wasps who lay their eggs in the mealie bug and live off them parasitically.

We tasted over ripe, dried and botrytic Muscat de Frontignan grapes in the vineyard, that went from sweet grapey flavours to sultana notes to the truffle notes of noble rot.

In the winery we tasted tank samples of Vreda (freedom) Hemel en Aarde Sauvignon Blanc bought in from specific vineyards that they work closely with, giving tropical notes with hint of pear followed by an Elgin sauvignon that was very lean dry and mineral almost bordeauxesq, the blendability was obvious. Then Klein Constantia’s Powder Block Reserve Sauvignon Blanc that was quite tropical with a touch of passionfruit and Mango, it has 11-12 months lees contact but is structured with good acidity.

We then went into the Dungeon and had a tasting of finished wines through the KC range from the Anvilka vineyards in Stellenbosch to the Marlbrook and reserve wines of Klein Constantia. Finishing with a 1974 Marlbrook from the library stock over lunch and 2005 Vin de Constance with the desert. Lunch was a splendid spread of buffet selection from a caterer that they were “testing out” we definitely felt that they should use them again.

As is usual for trips where you have tried to squeeze too much into the allocated time we arrived an hour late at Vondeling the sun had set behind signal hill but was causing Alpen Rosen on the Drakensburg across the valley. The boys were in the pool with beers when we got there, but after a refreshing dip we were all quick to get back into work mode. We tasted the Petit Blanc (which has just been listed as the house white at Glyndebourne) with dinner and they pulled out a sample of a mature parcel that they had of Cabernet Merlot 2005, wow, we thought, better start negotiating now – we want that wine.

They had spent the day organising the winery to cope with the higher yields than 2009, and with the second vintage of Klein Vondeling coming in too it was a bit of a juggling act. James, a student from Exeter, was on the night shift for punchdowns, and also a life saver for lending his phone charger.

The Averys Pinotage is sourced from these vineyards. They have sourced grapes in the past from this neighbouring vineyard and bought the property last year. (see picture of Dad and Matt in the vineyards last year?)
After our Friday appointments we returned – on time - for the full tasting.
Sauvignon Blanc 2009 textural full and fruity yet not tropical. A “steely” mineral herbaceous structure (aged on lees for 6 months)

No comments:

Post a Comment