Klein Constantia

South Africa, Western Cape

Vin de Constance comes from the Klein Constantia estate founded in 1695, just 20 miles from Cape Town at the foot of Table Mountain. Most unusually for a ‘New World’ wine, it was big news in Europe throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Napoleon is said to have shipped over bulk quantities of Vin de Constance to St Helena, to allow for about a bottle a day to see him through his exile there, but he was not alone, Louis XVI, Frederick the Great and the discerning gastronomes that made up the Russian Royal family were all more than partial too. Our own dear Jane Austen recommends it in Sense and Sensibility to sooth a broken heart and the more effusive Frenchman, Monsieur Baudelaire, suggests that only the ‘lips of a lover were more heavenly sweet...’ Following its early success the estate’s fortunes changed in the mid nineteenth century – the dreaded Phylloxera devastated the vineyards and the estate went in to rapid decline. Not until 1979 did life get breathed back in to Klein Constantia when a local family picked up the pieces, planted new vines and started the revival of this once illustrious wine estate – the revival has continued as new owners took the reins in 2010, with deep pockets and huge ambition. You can read David Porter's latest blog piece on the recent 2008 Vin de Constance Tasting with Matt Day the Winemaker Here

Other reviews and comments
       This remarkable natural sweet wine traces its history back to the first days of winemaking in South Africa, more than 300 years ago. Since its resurrection in 1986, it continues to be made in much the same way. Winemaker Matt Day says the aim is to achieve ideal balance between sugar, alcohol and acidity - something which requires painstaking work at harvest time, with up to 25 passes through the vineyards to pick the Muscat de Frontignan grapes at perfect maturity. Even then, the conditions of the year must be ideal if rot is to be avoided. For this to happen, Vin de Constance owners much to its vineyards' unique location, influenced by both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Winemaking is 'just a tool to reveal the grapes' true potential,' says Day. Klein Constantia is a part of what was once the huge Constantia farm, established in 1685 by Simon Van de Stel. it soon established a stellar international reputation for its sweet wine, which became the preferred drink of royalty, the aristocracy, poets and writes. Today Klein Constantia is owned by a consortium including Zdenek Bakala, Charles Harman, Bruno Prats and Hubert de Boüard.
(Jul 2015)