Journey into South African wine country Part 1

At a time when South African wines are soaring to new heights of sophistication, Constance head sommelier Jerome Faure toured the country to seek out the best of this new breed of exciting wines.

Wine country: Enjoying a glass or two with Anthony Hamilton Russell.

Wine country: Enjoying a glass or two with Anthony Hamilton Russell.

Here is Jerome’s diary of discovery around the wine regions of South Africa.

Day 1

I arrived in South Africa with Jerome Carlier, head sommelier at Constance Le Prince Maurice, and Gaetan of Constance Moofushi. Together we visited the Raats Family winery in Stellenbosch for a tasting with Gavin. Raats wines are very famous for their Chenin and Cabernet Franc. We really liked the quality of the Cabernet, it was lively and fruity with soft tannins – I would say one of the top Cabernet Francs in South Africa. The Chenin was beautiful as well.

Later that day we visited the Marianne Estate also in Stellenbosch which has a nice range of wine, especially since the arrival of François, the new winemaker. He has added a fresh touch to the wine with more elegance and less extraction. This is definitely an estate to watch.

Day 2

We visited the Colmant Estate in the Franschhoek Valley. Run by Jean Philippe Colmant, it is a very young winery dedicated to cap classique with a small production of about 45,000 bottles a year. This is definitely one of the best cap classique producers, its sparklings are crisp and balanced with a nice acidity and could certainly be mistaken for champagne in a blind tasting.

Also in the Franschhoek Valley is the famous winery Chamonix where we ventured next. Its range of products are presided over by winemaker Gottfried Mocke. Most people associate Pinotage with South Africa and Chamonix makes one of the best in the region with a nice body and structure, a long finish and beautiful tannins.

Later that day we travelled south to Hamilton Russell Vineyards, one of the most southerly wine estates in Africa, where we had a fantastic night with owners Olive and Anthony tasting 3 top wines. The first was the Chardonnay 89 which slightly oxidises on the nose but overall is very charming with a surprising amount of freshness.

The second wine we tasted was the Pinot Noir 85, the third vintage from Hamilton Russell and an amazing bottle, elegant and silky with a mid-mouth with hints of blackcurrant, black wild fruits and undergrowth aromas balanced by a perfect acidity and smooth tannins. It is a wine ready to drink now but still has ageing potential. The third wine was a Pinot 01, still a young wine despite its 12 years, it has a dark colour with richness, elegance and body. The balance and harmony of the wine could be compared to a Vosne Romanée.

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