Constantia Uitsig, Natura Vista 2018 Constantia

Natura Vista label

A rare bird, both of the feathered and the vinous variety.

From 185 rand, €20.04, $24.80, £21.99

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Nobody knows how many wine labels have birds on them. Nobody probably cares much either, but that won't stop me from declaring the malachite sunbird that appears on this South African white blend as the prettiest bird ever to grace a bottle – and the stuff inside is equally wonderful. Let me tell you all about it.

Part of the Nectarinia family, the malachite sunbird is distinguished by distinctive green plumage ... okay, okay, I'll tell you about the wine.

Natura Vista, made by Constantia Uitsig, is an oaked blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc that is rare to find at such high quality outside the Graves region of Bordeaux, from where the blend originates. Other than Margaret River in Western Australia, few places attempt the combination. With the runaway success of varietal Sauvignon Blanc, the motivation to blend in anything else is presumably low.

Yet it results in a significantly more interesting wine, I think – especially in the company of oak. The 2018 vintage is a blend of 62% Sémillon and 38% Sauvignon Blanc that was aged in 600-litre oak barrels for nine months, and I described it as follows:

Grass, spice (cumin?), tart lemon juice, cream, a little butter too. Reminds me a bit of lemon barley water, thanks to a touch of cereal character. Light in body, and not overtly acidic. There's a ripeness to the fruit that is really flattering, and I wouldn't be surprised if the finish isn't totally bone dry. Really enjoyable example of a style that is usually either very expensive or overlooked (and often both). Ageing well too – still plenty of primary fruit, but there's a softness and integration that seems thanks to the bottle maturation.

It's the kind of style that would match well with quite a broad range of foods. I tried my bottle with the Singaporean version of laksa, a noodle dish rich in coconut, chilli, fish sauce, lemongrass and turmeric. It had ample fruit to counter the spice, and a soft, creamy texture that made friends with the rich sauce. 

Constantia Uitsig vineyard

The vineyard is in the Constantia region, and it has a rich history. Viticulture on this land dates back Dutch settlers in the 17th century, with Constantia Uitsig itself established in 1894 under the English translation 'Constantia View'. For the full back story, see their website, from which the above photograph is also taken.

The modern era of the estate dates from 1988, when it was purchased and restored by David and Marlene McCay, well known for their wildlife preservation work. In 2013 it was sold to Pieter Erasmus of Pepkor, a huge investment company, and I see that the current winemaker has been in place since 2020.

Recent vintages seem to be closer to a 50/50 blend of the two varieties, with a similar oak regime, so I hope the style isn't changing too much. The vintage I bought from my local independent merchant was the 2018, which is still available in the UK. Elsewhere, the 2019 is more widely available (including in the US), but the 2020 and 2021 are both on the market as well.

The bottle I tasted shows that a few years of maturation is no bad thing at all, and I would recommend any vintage to wine lovers looking for something a bit different. Especially those who also love birds.

Find more Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon blends made outside their traditional Graves heartland and recommended for current drinking reviewed here.