I have recently encountered two Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blends in the Constantia Valley which express both the terroir and the quality that this region is known for.
Steenberg, at the southern end of the Constantia Valley, first produced a Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend under the name Catharina in 2000. Sadly, it lasted just two vintages, the Steenberg team, under then winemaker, Nicky Versfeld, felt it was ahead of its time. Fortunately, by 2007 with a new team under John Loubser as Cellarmaster, the blend was revived as Magna Carta.
Every vintage released of this 60/40 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon flagship was served at the launch of the latest 2015, starting with 2007, which showed how well this combination ages. No Magna Carta was bottled in 2008, 2013 or 2014, a brave move but the team felt these weren’t up to scratch.
Current winemaker, J D Pretorius, who came on board in 2009, has made beneficial changes to the wine. Today, the Semillon is fermented and aged in 500 and 600 litre oak for two months, before blending with the Sauvignon and being returned to barrel, just 30% new, for a further seven months. This has led to a better integration of wine and wood, as well as a more harmonious blend. Previously the Semillon alone was oaked and for a much shorter period. The latest 2015 lives up to the promise of this lauded vintage, and should mature as well, if not better than 2007, if only wine lovers are sufficiently patient to let it!
Constantia Glen, at the northern end of the Constantia Valley, also produces a Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend, named Two, first made in 2011. Winemaker, Justin van Wyk presented the three most recent releases: 2013, 2014 and 2015, each roughly a 70/30 blend. Longer sunlight hours and the ever-present breezes off False Bay encourage its elegant, cool-climate style. Van Wyk, like Pretorius, prefers using larger 600 litre oak barrels, around 20-25% new, which enhance rather than impose on the wine.
Even 2013 remains amazingly fresh and tight, and has a good two or three years’ life ahead. In 2015, which Van Wyk describes as the warmest vintage, he used some whole bunch vinification for the first time, this to enhance fruit and freshness. The wine shows great harmony and wonderful silky viscosity. Like Magna Carta 2015, wine lovers will benefit from patience.