Can White Wines Age Well?

It’s a well-known fact that good red wines tend to get even better with age. But what about quality whites? While there’s nothing like a crisp, young Sauvignon Blanc, the Constantia Valley (and Constantia Uitsig in particular) have long been producing white wines that not only shine straight out of the barrel, but defy norms and get better (and even better) over the years.

Of course, don’t just take our word for it…

We sat down with celebrated Cape Wine Master and Woolworths Wine Guru, Allan Mullins, to put our theory to the test. On our table? A selection of Constantia Uitsig’s White Blend vintages – the 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Having lived in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town for decades, and with a memory for good wine akin to an Amarula-loving elephant, Allan regales stories of the valley, noting how magnificent the maiden vintage of this blend was (a 2007 he recalls), “It was outstanding.” In fact, Allan still has a 2007 bottle in his cellar which he’s promised to share with us at Open Door during our next tasting together – we wait with baited breath!

Semillon-dominated, this Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend has turned heads since it first appeared on fine dining tables a decade ago…

The best Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are fermented separately (with the Sauv Blanc doing so in stainless steel tanks and the Semillon in oak barrels) before the precise percentage of each varietal is determined and put into 600 litre barrels (15% of which are new oak) for 9-10 months. This time together in barrels is not facilitated by any batonage, and so slowly, the wine is able to subtly integrate… creating a sublime connection.

The Semillon comes from an old block – 27 years in the growing. “It’s situated in the worst soil imaginable,” Jacques adds. The conditions may be harsh, but it’s under these precise conditions of pressure that diamonds are forged in vineyards… In this case, the stressed vines and difficult growing conditions lend themselves perfectly to taming the otherwise too prolific Semillon – producing a tiny, concentrated yield instead of a bloated, dull crop.

While the Semillon brings incredible body and an oily texture to the blend, this is balanced beautifully by the Sauvignon Blanc which, in all three glasses before us, adds a fresh acidity and purity.

Age before beauty, we begin by tasting the 2011. Its colour is notable and stands out straight away in our line-up – a rich gold compared to the lighter translucent hue in the newer vintages.