333rd anniversary ends off with vintage wine tasting

Groot Constantia chief executive officer Jean Naude.

Groot Constantia ended its 333rd anniversary with a tasting of its flagship wine led by cellar master Boela Gerber, and lunch at Jonkershuis.

Against a colourful historical background of tales that go into celebrating South Africa’s oldest wine, Grand Constance, the French translation of Groot Constantia (“Celebrating 333 years production”, Bulletin, July 20) guests were treated to a vertical tasting of vintages from 2015 to 2005 and odd years in between.

In a vertical tasting, different vintages of the same wine type from the same winery are tasted.

While the golden nectar was being poured into elegant dessert glasses, Jean Naude, CEO of Groot Constantia went back to the beginning when Simon van der Stel was appointed by the Dutch East India Company to govern the Cape of Good Hope in 1679. In his hometown in the Netherlands Van Der Stel had gained a solid background in viticulture and so it’s not surprising that in 1685 he went in search of land for wine growing potential. He found it in the Constantia valley – Constantia is the Latin word for constancy or steadfastness.

Boela Gerber, who joined Groot Constantia in 2001, said Grand Constance was first produced in 1821 and combines passion, good soils and great microclimate.

Over the years it is made mostly from white Muscat de Frontignan, grown in soil type Cartref, Longlands, Kroonstad and produced in Mediterranean climate with cool sea breezes from southeast facing sloping
blocks below the historic manor house.

The white Muscat de Frontignan is blended with a few of its red counterparts. The grapes are left to ferment on the skins, to shrivel into sugary morsels for seven to 10 days and then placed in barrels for about two years.

Harvesting takes place between the end of March and mid-April.
It is then packaged in authe tic bottles and presented in boxes with a booklet outlining its history.

The tasting began with the golden Grand Constance 2015 in the originally shaped short fat bottles, ending with the toffee-coloured 2005 from tall slim bottles. Odd year vintages from in be-
tween were also tasted. The difference in flavour and taste is subtle with a combination of
dried fruit, mostly apricot and peach, and includes walnuts or almonds, baked raisins and honey. What became clear is that
Grand Constance has aging potential and has received international acclaim by emperors and kings.

Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have drunk a pint a day while in exile on St Helena from 1815 until his death in 1821. In September 2016 a Grand Constance 1821 vintage was returned to its place of origin and can now be viewed in the Cloete Cellar.

Mr Naude said the estate recently bricked up a time capsule filled with 12 bottles of Grand Constance 2009 in one of the Cloete Cellar vents.

“The idea is to open it up on February 2, 2109, when the South African wine industry will be celebrating 450 years of existence,” he said.