Image: Supplied

It’s late March and most of the Cape’s wine producers are winding down from what promises to be a sensational harvest. Constantia Glen, nestled high up on the slopes of Table Mountain in the historic Constantia Valley, are only two thirds through their harvest.

Arriving for lunch at the recently developed tasting room, I’m ushered to a table with sweeping panoramic views stretching across False Bay. Gus – impeccably turned out as always, awaits…

I’ve worked closely with him on a number of wine projects, so I’m well aware of his passion and commitment to the Constantia Valley. Always the first to praise other producers and people, his generous enthusiasm and vision fosters a sense of custodianship for the future of Cape wine, beginning with its birthplace, the Constantia Valley.

In fact, I have to remind him that the purpose of our lunch is not the valley as a whole, but that of Constantia Glen and his part in the success of the farm. Having carved out a successful career as one of the founding partners of Alpha Wealth, Gus’s day job might be quite removed from wine farming, but his heart has never strayed far from the vineyards he grew up amongst on his father’s Stellenbosch wine farm.

Although Constantia Glen is the oldest privately owned farm in the valley, wine farming only commenced in 2000 when the first tranche of vines were planted. Today, a total of 30 hectares of pristine vineyards stretch across this magnificent 60-hectare property. 

Enjoying an impressive glass of predominantly Merlot-based Constantia Glen Three 2013 with their now famous cheese and charcuterie platter, Gus emphasizes the fact that this is very much a family affair. All its members are actively involved and vested in the success of the farm, with the winemaking left in the solid hands of Justin van Wyk. His attention-to-detail and focus on producing the very best from this pocket of land has resulted in a string of international and local awards already – and many more ahead I bet.

With autumn in the air, the temperature drops and it’s time for a glass of their flagship Constantia Glen Five 2012, a classic bordeaux blend paired with a hearty Goulash soup. The place is buzzing, the service, as polished as the fine wines themselves.

Wade Bales (left) and Gus Allen (right)
Wade Bales (left) and Gus Allen (right)
Image: Supplied

So Gus, why are you so zealous about the Constantia Valley? For so many reasons! Being the oldest consistently producing wine region in the Southern Hemisphere, we’ve been making wine here for 332 years (since 1685). That gives this area a certain cache. In fact, Constantia has produced wines for longer than the Haute Medoc in Bordeaux where the famous chateaus like Lafite and Margaux are to be found. It’s also the only present wine area in the country (and one of few in the world) with its own embossed bottle, ‘Constantia 1685’. Apart from prestigious heritage, it’s one of the coolest wine regions in South Africa, with the resultant benefit of late ripening red and white grapes. This helps to produce tannin ripe fruit despite living in a time of global warming.

Closer to home, what’s the Constantia Glen philosophy? To simply produce the very best red and white wines from this unique area – producing world-class wines with minimal interference using the best of traditions and the latest in technologies.

What makes Constantia Glen’s terroir special? Constantia faces due east, yet this pocket of land also has north-facing slopes facing Constantia Nek. This gap in the mountain allows for an extra couple of hours of sunlight during ripening time. These unique factors (plus protection from the South Easter winds for certain varieties) give us an enormous point of difference.

What are some of the challenges for South African wine producers? Not only for South Africa, but across the world, we have the immense challenge of global warming. This is speeding up the ripening process and therefore not allowing for the timeous ripening of the tannin structures of the grapes. The cooler areas also have this challenge but to a much lesser degree and therefore have a definite advantage here.

Your favourite white and red wines? My favourite wines are no doubt both red and white South African style Bordeaux blends… the individual varieties come together to make a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Your favourite pastime? Being in the vineyard with my pair of secateurs.

The best glass of wine you’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking? We’ve just released our Constantia Glen FIVE 2012. I personally believe this to be the best wine we’ve produced in our short history so far.

When in your life have you been happiest? I am as happy now in life as I was growing up in Stellenbosch, driving trucks to the winery from the age of 16.

What can you simply not do without in life? The thrill of discovering how the new releases in our young brand will turn out.


Wade Bales is the Founder of The Wine Society
wadebaleswinesociety.co.za

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