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Groot Constantia - August Newsletter

At the end of the day, Groot Constantia’s success lies in the quality of our wines. In our mind there can thus be no better introduction to this newsletter than the 2005 Harvest Report from our Cellar master, Boela Gerber:

This year I discovered during my fifth harvest at Groot Constantia that there is no such thing as a normal harvest on this Estate!

The 2004/2005 summer season was hot compared to the previous year. However, as reported in the previous newsletter, Groot Constantia did have good winter rains, unlike most other parts of the Western Cape. The cold, wet winter and the sunny days of January made me itch with anticipation to get cracking with the harvest.

We kicked-off the harvest with Sauvignon Blanc, a change to the Pinotage that usually comes flying into the cellar.

And then by the end of February the vineyard suddenly – and inexplicably – decided to rest. This meant that final ripening was just not happening. In two weeks we could only harvest a paltry six tons.

But, as they say in the classics, never a dull moment. Between the middle and end of March, Bacchus literally buried our cellar under Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fortunately this frenetic harvesting could be accommodated thanks to the red wine facilities that had recently been upgraded.

And now that the Cellar master has recovered from two nervous breakdowns and has got his social life back to a semblance of normality, this crazy harvest seems to have been worth every cold sweat, sleepless night and subdued prayer. Groot Constantia’s white wines are looking fantastic, with huge ripe flavours.

The Sauvignon blancs ooze green peppers, melon and ripe figs, along with a fresh grassiness, and the Chardonnays are showing tremendous potential. As far as the red wines are concerned, this year has given wines with rich colours and excellent tannin extraction. I have been tasting samples from tanks and barrels, and the flavours are extraordinarily complex.

In my modest opinion 2005 is going to be a huge year for Groot Constantia wines, with red wines that will have tremendous aging potential. It is, as usual, difficult to make any exceptions, but the Shiraz is looking particularly lovely. Gorgeous flavours. Deep garnet colour. Superb extraction. I just cannot wait to see how this baby is going to look after 15 months in the barrels!

ONE of the people that will be delighted about the good harvest season is Kobus van Niekerk, a well-known man in wine circles who has taken over the reigns of Groot Constantia Trust chairperson from Ritzema de la Bat.

Mr Van Niekerk was head of marketing at the KWV for 20 years and has been involved with Groot Constantia for more then 25 years as a member of the Control Board and a member of the Trust since 1993. He currently farms full-time in the Wellington area.

The Trust’s new vice-chairperson is Dr Ernest Messina. Dr Messina is a former teacher and academic, who has made major inroads in the business world since entering this field in 1997. Currently a partner in WP Oils, Dr Messina is an renowned expert in the field of black empowerment.

GROOT CONSTANTIA continues to play a role in the broader community through creating an awareness of the Estate and Groot Constantia historical heritage. Currently school groups from the black townships are being hosted on the Estate, where project leader Myrtle Edwards gives them a tour and insight in the fascinating history. To make this possible, Groot Constantia is footing the bill for the children’s transportation costs, and judging by the smiling faces rambling among the old building and through the open spaces, this historical world seems to be greeted by breathless enthusiasm. We hope that all these children have lasting memories of Constantia and are aware of the role that all population groups have played and continue to play in the region’s unique wine culture.

GETTING back to wine, Groot Constantia performed well at the recent Swiss International Wine Show. The Gouverneur’s Reserve Shiraz 2001, the Shiraz 2003, Pinotage 2003 and the Gouverneurs Reserve 2003 all received silver medals. These wines are now available, along with the 2005 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2005 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend and the popular Groot Constantia Blanc de Noir 2005.

And the awards continued at the Juliet Cullinan Wine Connoisseurs Awards held in Johannesburg! The Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve 2003 received Gold, and was nominated the best red blend, while the Pinotage 2003 achieved 3rd position in the Pinotage category with a silver medal. The Gouverneurs Reserve 2003 has just been released. Constantia Rood 2003 has just been nominated 'Wine of the Week' in the USA, so come and see whether these awards are justified!

THE major release this year, however, will be that of the Grand Constance, Groot Constantia’s Muscat de Frontignan dessert wine. This Natural sweet blockbuster was the wine that put Constantia on the map, yes, that famed elixir consumed by Napoleon and Jane Austen, among others. The marketing aspects are currently being finalized, but we predict that this is going to become one of South Africa’s classic dessert wines. Watch this space!

BEING 320 years old this year, the release of the Grand Constance is one of the special events on our calendar. The other is the opening of our new maturation cellar – see report further below – as well as a gala dinner in November.

INTERNATIONAL delegates keep flocking to Groot Constantia for a visit. On June 1 we hosted the Vice President of Colombia, Dr Francisco Santos, and his wife. Dr Santos was most impressed with the magnificent beauty of the Estate, the lush vineyards and the views of the gracious Manor House.

His favourite wine, by the way, is Shiraz – and Groot Constantia did not disappoint! The Ambassador of Colombia was also present. He is a regular visitor and also enjoys purchasing our wines for his Embassy in Pretoria.

The Colombian national flag was blowing in the wind much to their delight.

CONSTANTIA’s historical and cultural credentials are impeccable. But we keep doing our bit for the environment by controlling those pesky vineyard pests in a unique way.

The Constantia Valley wine region is the first in the Cape to implement an environmentally sound regional strategy to control the spread of mealy bug in the vineyards.

A technical team comprising the valley's vineyard managers, Vin Pro viticultural consultants Johan Pienaar and Johan Wiese, Winetech-funded researches, and representatives from local chemical company Terason, formulated the integrated strategy, which was put into action earlier this year.

A trap with a pheromone pill to lure male mealy bugs is used to simulate the presence of females while a sticky pad in the box traps the males. The natural predators of mealy bugs - wasps and ladybirds - are then introduced to the vineyards to control the female mealy bug population. Observing the number of trapped males help to monitor the extent of infestations, as well as the effectiveness of the programme.

According to Callie Bröcker, chairman of the technical group and Groot Constantia’s Estate Manager, the uniqueness of this approach is that all wine producers in the Constantia Valley are working together in implementing the strategy.

Participating farms include Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Constantia Uitsig and Steenberg, as well as the recently planted Glen Alphine and Eagle's Nest.

ANOTHER unique example of the co-operation that exists between wine estates in Constantia is the soon-to-be-launched Constantia bottle. This means that all the estates will use a standard “Constantia” bottle for their wines. Different labels, but uniform bottles inscribed with 1685 - Constantia - South Africa. Constantia is the first local wine region to employ this marketing instrument and we hope this not only underscores the shared pride in and commitment to our wine region, but will also be seen as a blueprint for quality.

CONGRATULATIONS to Mr. Colin Gorvett who attended the Good Food and Wine Show at the end of May 2005 at the Cape Town Convention Centre. You have won a GROOT CONSTANTIA MAGNUM bottle of Shiraz 2002. Please contact Mery at (021) 794-5128 for collection.

WHO has heard of a running club named after a wine estate? Well, you have now. The Groot Constantia Running Club is an officially licensed club sporting almost 30 members. The name of the club has caused quite a stir in road-running circles. When one of the Groot Constantia runners come haring past other runners during an event such as the Two Oceans Marathon, one would forgive other athletes for thinking that the runner in question is donning a wine advertisement on his or her vest!

Look out for the Groot Constantia runners at the next road race. Or if you are a runner, call the Estate for entries on how to join. You may get some winemaking tips in the process!

GROOT CONSTANTIA has been doing good business with some of the major grocery chain stores that are now also stocking wine. Our wines are now featured in many of these stores, exposing our brand to a new generation of consumer. We are sure this will create an awareness of the accessibility of our wines and complement the sterling work done by the specialist wine shops.

Our German Agent W.I.V. Bacchus brought their “Top Sales” people to visit the estate, as well as the other Big 6 sites.

The ladies representing Cape Town's Big Six MERY URIBE, Groot Constantia’s PRO, represented the Constantia Winelands at this year’s Tourism Indaba fair in Durban. The Constantia Winelands is part of the Big Six Western Cape tourism draw-cards, along with Cape Point, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront and Robben Island. According to Mery, the response from delegates to this Indaba was heartening. “We had two types of visitors: those that knew about Constantia’s winelands and those that wanted to get to know our area!” Delegates were enthralled by the visual depictions of the region’s history, the natural beauty, its close proximity to the Cape Town city centre and, of course, the wines which were made available for tasting at the close of business each day.

SOME of the old oak wine vats that have been on the Estate since 1903 were sold on tender earlier in the year to make room for new barrels as part of the major renovations to the maturation cellar. A number of theses old vats were retained as part of the Estate’s commitment to preserving the wine heritage. Cellar master Boela Gerber, however, is delighted to have more space for working barrels!

BOELA will be visiting the United States later in the year to join Groot Constantia agents in introducing the wines to potential buyers, to converse with current customers to ensure they are satisfied with the service and quality they are receiving and to host wine-tastings. “America is a very fickle market due to their dedication to brands,” says Boela. “But the market is rife with potential. Personal relationships are important, that is why I hope to give current and potential clients insight into recent developments on the Estate, our wine styles and future plans.”

THERE are new staff members to be warmly welcomed. Megan Isaacs joins Groot Constantia as horticulturist and Shaun Theunissen is warehouse and dispatch co-ordinator. We wish them all the best of success on the Estate, and that they enjoy their colleagues and the environment.

ANOTHER development is that the lease for the popular Jonkershuis restaurant on Groot Constantia has expired. Negotiations are currently underway with new lessees, but we are sure the tradition of hospitality, good food and fine wine will be continued.

We hereby bid farewell to Helen and Stefan after 20 years of dedicated service. They, will be missed by all.

TALKING of hospitality, do not forget to come and relax with a glass of our port in front of the fireplace or join us for a Cellar tour and wine tasting. Bookings can be made on (021) 794-5128.

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