Wine: Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2013
Wine of Origin: Constantia
Winemaker: Matthew Day
Background: Klein Constantia Vin De Constance is a legendry natural sweet wine which was often mentioned in the European literature of the 19th Century. In “Edwin Drood”, Charles Dickens tells of "the support embodied in a glass of Constantia and a home-made biscuit", while Jane Austen recommends that her forsaken heroine try a little Constantia for "its healing powers on a disappointed heart". A German poet, Klopstock, devoted an entire ode to the pleasures of this sweet wine, while Baudelaire transformed it into a sensuous image for his great brooding poem "Les Fleurs du Mal". Kings of old tussled to lay their hands on this wine; Louis Philippe sent emissaries from France to fetch it; Napoleon drank it on the island of St Helena to find solace in his lonely exile; Frederick the Great and Bismarck ordered it; and the English Prime Minister – who had sampled it with much delight at Downing Street – made sure that regular consignments from the Cape were delivered to Buckingham Palace for the King. Eminent wine writer, Hugh Johnson, wrote “From these Elysian fields used to come one of the very greatest wines in the world – the legendary Constantia. Constantia was bought by European courts in the 18th and 19th Centuries in preference to Yquem, Tokay and Madeira". However not all bode well for this famous Constantia wine as towards the end of the 19th Century, the dreaded disease "Phylloxera" arrived at the Cape, causing devastation in the vineyards and many wine farmers were put out of business. Due to this disease production of Vin De Constance was halted but the legend lived on having being immortalised in literature as well as older bottles still found in cellars of foreign wine collectors. In 1980 Klein Constantia was bought by Duggie Jooste and during the redevelopment of the Estate, all involved on the farm were determined to bring back this famous sweet wine. Early records were studied and careful selection was made from vines which, in all likelihood, came from the original stock used in Constantia 300 years ago. In 1986 the wine was reintroduced to the public and packaged in a similar style 500ml bottle to its forebears and offered in a presentation box which included a leaflet describing the wine and its history. The wine is produced as a natural sweet wine having no botrytis, yet perfect ripeness to make it a velvety rich dessert wine along with fine mineral acidity. The legend lives on and with new owners of Klein Constantia since 2012, under the leadership of Hans Astrom as Managing Director, Vin de Constance continues to be given the presence it deserves as one of the world’s finest dessert wines. I was privileged recently to be invited to a tasting of six vintages of the wine ranging from the current vintage, the 2013 to one of the last vintages of the legendary Constantia wine, the 1875 vintage. Two bottles of the 1875 was donated for the tasting by Swedish wine collector, Nils Sternby, from a case of 6 bottles which he bought at a wine auction in London in the late 1960’s. His cellar is kept at a constant 11degs and the two bottles he donated for the tasting were in perfect condition and one of the panel taters predicts its good for a further 100 years! The wine had a beautiful sunset amber colour with amazingly fresh aromas of dried raison. The wine continued to delight on the palate with a delicate dried raisin and peach pip flavour with a long rich sweet finish. The current vintage is the 2013 and this promises to go the length of the 1875 but of course I won’t be around to prove this!!! Made from Muscat de Frontignan grown on the mother vineyard which was planted in 1983, the 2013 was aged in a combination of 500L French Acacia and Hungarian oak barrels for 3 years, of which 60% were 1st fill barrels.
Result: The wine shows a golden straw colour with honeyed nougat aromas which evolve on the fresh, clean palate along with silky flavours of apricot and peach with delicate hints of toffee apple on the luxuriously long finish.
When to drink: Now till 2022
Drink with what: Classic Crème Brulee
Expect to pay: R1016.00 (500ml)