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Historical Grande Dame makes appearance at Groot Constantia's 325th anniversary

The original sweet wine which made Groot Constantia one of the world’s iconic wine producers during the 18th and 19th centuries has been re-launched in an elegantly classical and historically true bottle to celebrate the Estate’s 325th anniversary.

Groot Constantia, which was founded in 1685, is South Africa’s oldest wine farm with the first owner being Cape governor Simon van der Stel who is known as the father of the South African wine industry.

Groot Constantia’s iconic sweet dessert wine, which was praised by the likes of Napoleon, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, is named , a brand used by Groot Constantia in its early years of existence. Like it’s illustrious predecessors which were served at the European courts of royalty, the Groot Constantia Grand Constance is a blend of red and white Muscat de Frontignan grapes picked during the latest stages of ripeness, barrel-fermented and then matured in old French oak barrels.

According to Boela Gerber, cellarmaster at Groot Constantia, historical research and interesting discoveries led to the re-launch of the Estate’s Grand Constance in a bottle based on those used in the 18th century.

“The story of this new bottle for our classic sweet wine began, of all places, in the American state of Delaware”, says Gerber. “In 2004, an American citizen picked up a piece of glass on the beach at Lewes, Delaware, on the east coast of America. The piece of glass had the inscription "Constantia Wyn" on it and American historians traced this artefact to a ship that had been stranded in the Delaware Bay in 1774. The ship was a British supply ship named the Severn, which sank in the Delaware Bay after being hit by a storm. The wreckage was only discovered in 2004”.

Unfortunately the bottle of Groot Constantia wine was broken during the storm and except for the engraved inscription “Constantia Wyn”, the bottle offered no other clue as to the nature of the contents. According to Gerber, it could only have been one of the sweet wines that Constantia was known for at that time.

Inspired by this piece of history washed up in America, Groot Constantia embarked on the search for an authentic bottle in which to present the classic Grand Constance wine. The valuable broken relic, as well as copious historical research resulted in the new bottle shape and label.

The style of the Grand Constance is based on the Estate’s original natural sweet wines. According to Gerber, the Muscat de Frontignan varieties gain an extra dimension in Groot Constantia’sMediterranean type climate with its cooling breezes from the Atlantic Ocean and average rainfall of 1100mm per annum.

The grapes were picked mid April 2008 at about 43ºB, fermentation was started on the skins and only pressed after three days.  Fermentation was completed in old barrels, after which the wine was racked to stainless steel tanks and returned to the same barrels.  The wine was left to mature for a further 24 months before it was stabilized and bottled.

The wine has an amber colour. One will find caramel, dried apricots and raisins with hints of pineapple and honey on the nose.  Dried fruit and honey follows through on the palate.  The natural sweetness is well balanced by crisp acidity.

“Whether it tastes like the wines made on Constantia 200 years ago we’ll never know – but I dare say that anyone drinking this wine will know they are sipping a piece of history.”

The 375ml bottles are sold at R295 from the farm.

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