Roar Africa

Exploring Africa Since 1688

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Klein Constantia – Sip Napoleon’s favourite dessert wine!

One of our favourite wine farms to share with you on your visit to Cape Town is the beautiful 300 year old Klein Constantia just 15 minutes drive from the city. So close that we can drop in after a morning at the beach or a visit to the Jackass Penguins.

Klein Constantia was originally part of Constantia wine estate which was the VOC Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel ‘s wine estate founded in 1684. “Klein” means small, but at about 146 hectares it is not a small farm at all. Klein Constantia is family owned and run by Duggie Jooste who bought the farm in 1980 and lovingly restored it to it’s current magnificence.

Part of the mission of restoration was to bring back Vin de Constance, the sweet Constantia wine which became famous in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries particularly amongst European and Russian royal households. Napoleon Bonaparte eased his misery in exile by having almost 300 gallons shipped to him in St Helena and apparently on his deathbed Napoleon refused everything offered to him but a glass of Constantia wine. Famous authors Charles Dickens and Jane Austen were fans as well. Jane Austen wrote in Sense and Sensibility of its “healing powers on a disappointed heart.''

The wine-making team, headed by Ross Gower went to great lengths to recreate this masterpiece. They “studied historic records, looked to modern research, and read reports by early travellers who had tasted the wines. They were extremely fortunate to find a special clone of Muscat de Frontignan propagated from vines, which in all likelihood came from the original stock used in Constantia 300 years before.”

And so by using research, traditional methods, late harvesting, and a lot of love, Vin de Constance is back a century after it’s disappearance. It is golden in colour, aromatic, with a smooth finish and lingering flavours. Come and enjoy it.

A rare bottle of 1821 Grand Constance sold for GBP 2,990 pounds (about $6,000) at a Sotheby's auction a year ago in London. Fortunately you can pick up a more recent vintage for under $50.

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