Saturday 17 December 2016
My partner and I followed the winding road through the sunny meadows. We remembered, at last, that Buitenverwachting is closed for wine-tasting on Sundays. The Public Holiday on Friday had probably helped shape our weekend plans as we usually taste on Sunday afternoons. I mused on the contrasts as we approached the parking area. Blocks of tall manicured vines at attention in tight lines were set against the rough meadows with their uncut grass. Roses at the end of each row of vines – used as much for pest indication as decoration – contained alternating red and white flowers. These, quite literally, gave a symbolic foretaste of the red and white wines we were to taste.
We found the new tasting room, opened only in November, located in the original winery. Buitenverwachting was established in 1796 and, like so many of the Constantia Valley vineyards, originally formed part of the Constantia Estate founded by Simon van der Stel. I was surprised to learn that the estate had fallen into recent disrepair until the Mueller family bought it in 1982. 100 tonnes of maiden grapes were harvested in 1985 which was the first harvest for 30 years. The long history seemed to have imbibed a coldness as I felt the staff rather reserved on our arrival. My partner and I had discussed en route whether to ‘blind taste’ or not. Our choice was made as we were invited to select 5 wines each for our R50 tasting. We sampled the menu and selected 10 different wines between us.
Fortunately, perhaps having mentioned that we were Cape Wine Academy students, the staffs were more open and attentive. Our host Sebastian, coincidentally another Sebastian as his namesake served us also at Klein Constantia last month, was most helpful and knowledgeable. He seemed keen to let us try every wine on their extensive menu! The first four wines I tasted were all Sauvignon Blanc, a heat-sensitive grape variety suited to cool air over 250m above sea level. I was able to recognise that the wine was from all the same variety of grape, together with their individual differences. Nonetheless, it was a testing introduction to our tasting as I struggled to find distinct descriptors for their nose and palate. I was interested to find how price does not always correlate with preference. We both preferred the R90 bottle to those sold at R55, R130 and R250.
Next was the Viognier. I was pleased to be able to recognise how it immediately tasted different to the Sauvignon Blancs, albeit notoriously difficult to tell from Chardonnay during blind-tasting. My favourite wine was the last white, the 2015 Chardonnay. I am not a fan of the heavily oaked chardonnays from elsewhere in the New World but this had a delicious complexity of tropical fruitiness and warmth of flavour. I realise too that the tasting notes score colour, nose and palate entirely objectively. This means that the highest score is not necessarily the one I like most. I shall adapt my scoring method to include a ‘likeability’ element for the future.
The tasting was fast becoming wine-drinking so we decided to take a break and shared a filling cheese platter. We resumed with the Blanc de Noir rosé which always confuses as it invariably is blended from more than one grape variety, in this case Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. I drink much less red wine than white so found it quite a challenge to distinguish between the merlot, pinot noir and malbec, the latter two being relatively little planted in South Africa. I was pleasantly surprised at how I am learning to enjoy red wines too. We sampled the “1769” Muscat dessert wine to end, sweet and creamy but not as syrupy as some I have tasted.
We left with two bottles of white wine – my partner with a bottle of 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – as we both preferred to the red wines. It was a relief to have paid less than half for our last tasting at Klein Constantia. Buitenverwachting had indeed lived up to its name: ‘Beyond Expectation’.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2016 Buiten Blanc – R55
2016 Sauvignon Blanc – R90*
2016 Hussey’s Vlei Sauvignon Blanc – R130
2014 Maximus Sauvignon Blanc – R250
2014 Third Time Lucky Viognier – R200
2015 Chardonnay – R150*
2016 Blanc de Noir – R50
2012 Merlot – R80* FAVOURITE WINE
2013 Block 8 Pinot Noir – R250
2012 Malbec – R250
2011 Christine Merlot – R300
2014 “1769” Muscat de Frontignan – R300