Freshness in Wine

Monday, 11 February, 2013
Harry Haddon
One of the most beguiling characteristics of wine is freshness. Sure complexity length and the rest are needed, but it is freshness that, like the lightening bolt that strikes Frankenstein, brings the wine alive.
Freshness is not simply acidity, but also that hard to describe part of a wine, that you feel more than taste. It’s the wine’s life force, its exuberance, its jollity. A fresh wine makes for a delicious wine, and a delicious wine makes for another bottle.

Freshness is on my mind as this year’s Constantia Fresh Festival looms. Each year Fine Wine Events with the participating Constantia farms puts on a big show aimed at highlighting the region and country’s freshest wines. The festival started by focusing only on Sauvignon Blanc, but in recent years it has expanded and is exploring all the wines of the valley.

One of the wines that will be at the festival is one of South Africa’s most famous: Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance. I asked Hans Astrom, Managing Director at Klein Constantia, why this wine is important to the farm and how freshness features in it.

In terms of its importance he pointed out that “It is one of the most historical wines in the world dating back to 1685, bearing in mind that other very famous sweet wines like D'Yquem started only in 1811.” But what of its freshness? Astrom said “the balance between alcohol, acid, PH and sugar is key for us and this comes from the unique terroir and climate that we have in Constantia.” This balance creates a wine that offers freshness, an especially important character in any sweet wine.

So we have a very good sweet wine that has all the hallmarks of freshness, but what to eat with it? To answer this question I spoke to one of the chefs that will be at the festival, Harald Bresselschmidt, a master of food and wine pairing and the owner and chef of Aubergine in Cape Town. No really, the man is a genius.

I asked Harald how freshness in wine influences his choice of pairings. The Chef said, in a typically authoritative manner that “If we refer to freshness of young wine with usually a high free acidity and slightly under ripe notes, food needs often to tone the wine down through richer textures.  Only then you can find the right balance.”

This is why, he pointed out, goats milk cheese works so well with Sauvignon Blanc or “Chardonnay with good Barrique notes pair well with seafood dishes, classically finished with cream and butter.”

When it comes to modern Vin de Constance Bresselschmidt says “in this century thus far, the vintages show great freshness and pair with foiegras and caramelised apples, but also with fresh duck liver and sweetbreads depending on the preparation. Almonds and Honey blossom are good guides here.” So if you are looking to open any recent vintages of this delicious wine, you know what to do.

Food is a huge part of the Constantia Fresh Festival, and apart from the 5 course dinner Peter Templehoff will be preparing on the Friday night – paired with the freshest wines from Constantia, and around the world – the Saturday walk around tasting will feature the country’s top chefs providing delectable little tidbits to have with the wines on offer.

Freshness is vital to fine wine. To get an experience of freshness, fine food and wine, Constantia Fresh Festival is probably the best place to start.


Freshness is vital to fine wine
Freshness is vital to fine wine

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