This is a question I get asked all the time, and since we are in the age of individuality and marketing, it’s important to know what you do best, and what your USP (Unique Selling Point) is. Constantia is one of the top Sauvignon Blanc producers in the world, so for Nova Zonnestraal to claim that it’s one of the best Sauvignon Blanc producers in Constantia, is quite a claim indeed!  However, what many people don’t know, is that Nova Zonnestraal really is a one-of-a-kind farm.

Sauvignon Specialist

Although we grow a small amount of Semillon on the farm (more about this grape in a future blog), we have gone all in on Sauvignon Blanc. If you look at the top wine estates of the world, you will find that they focus on one grape, or one style of wine. Why should it be any different in South Africa?

At Nova Zonnestraal we believe that if you want to be the best at something, you must put all your focus into that one thing. And we are the only wine estate in Constantia to live by that maxim. As I am getting to know the farm more and more, I believe that the wooded Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend may be where we can reach our ultimate expression of terroir, that defining thing that makes us stand out in the world. Our Don’s Reserve is such an expression.

Furthest North and East, on the Shale band

The farm is the most Northerly and Easterly wine estate in Constantia. This ordinarily wouldn’t mean much, but due to our location we have the majority of the farm sitting on a shale band, which misses all the other estates. Malmesbury shale is the oldest rock in Cape Town, and forms the basement of the Cape Super Group, the folded sandstone mountains of which Table Mountain is a part of. The rest of the Constantia estates consist of decomposed sandstone (mainly eroded from the steep slopes and cliffs of the Constantiaberg) and/or granite (formed from magma batholiths that ballooned into the shale, long before the Cape Super Group formed).

What makes shale soils interesting, is they are more fertile than granite soils, and much more fertile than sand soils. This means that our vines grow vigorously compared to other estates, resulting in wines with high concentrations of fruit flavour, especially the tropical flavours like guava, gooseberry, and passion fruit; and we have slightly lower acids, which makes the wine extra drinkable!

Zonnestraal – Sunshine

Zonnestraal literally means sunray and it isn’t just a pretty made-up name. The farm sits in the right spot to soak up the last of the evening’s sunrays, and for those of you have enjoyed one of our tunnel evenings, you would have experienced the glorious sunset over Constantia Nek. The extended sunlight that we get is also responsible (with the shale soils) for adding an intensity of fruit flavour to the wine, while also adding mouthfeel and lowering the acidity.

I have talked about lower acidity twice now. It may be worthwhile mentioning that Sauvignon Blanc has more acid than most other grape varieties, and it is important to have a good acidity as the backbone of a fresh white wine, however, what does “good” acidity mean? As a winemaker, I am more interested in the balance of a wine, rather than picking apart the analysis of acid and sugar, as examples. So, I’m not worried about high acids, so long as the wine has components that balance the high acid, like sweetness (think German Riesling) or some barrel ageing with most cool-climate, wooded white wines. But I get told by many people that they don’t drink Sauvignon Blanc because it is too acidic, and that it “hits” them in the back of the throat, or along the inside of the cheeks and jaw. I’m glad to say that these same people consistently enjoy the balance of our wines.

The Tunnel – our hidden gem

Nova Zonnestraal means the new side of the farm Zonnestraal, which dates back to the 1700’s. The M3 highway was built in 1964 and literally split the farm into two. Lynn Rowand, the current owner, inherited the farm in 1999, when the farm was named Nova Zonnestraal.

The tunnel runs under the freeway, and it used to connect the two farms so that a tractor could take the short cut from one side to the other. But now we have closed off the Zonnestraal (Eastern) side and converted the tunnel into our tasting/events venue, as well as a storage facility for the wine. We knew we had something special when the conversion was complete, but we were overwhelmed by the amount of people who told us this was a one-of-a-kind in the world…wine under a major highway! Once inside, you forget where you are, but leave knowing that you have really experienced one of Cape Town’s unique and hidden gems.