“Wine is inspiring and adds greatly to the joy of living”. – Napoleon Bonaparte
There are many notable figures that come to mind who have spread the word globally about Grand Constance that have put S.A wines on the map other than the great French military and political leader. Grand Constance was famously mentioned and renowned in history, poetry, and famous literature for its Sweet Wine, a red and white blend of Muscat that was favoured by Napoleon during his exile to the island of St Helena, from 1815 until his death in 1821, and loved by famous icons across the world, including Frederick the Great of Prussia, and Louis Philippe. Mentions of Grand Constance appeared in literary works of the great Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
Constantia is acknowledged as the cradle of winemaking in South Africa. The well-preserved property of Groot Constantia dates back to 1685 and is of significant cultural and historical importance. The story of the legendary sweet wines of Constantia, once known as Constantia Wyn (Afrikaans for wine), is interwoven with that of the valley. It was first owned by Governor Simon van der Stel, whose stately Cape Dutch manor house is a national treasure today.
To paraphrase Groot Constantia CEO, Jean Naudé, “exploring the history of Grand Constance is, in essence, contemplating the sheer existence and fame of Groot Constantia and the Constantia wine valley as a whole”.
The french name Grand Constance directly translates into Great Constantia/Groot Constantia.
A brand from the Napoleonic era, re-launched in 2005 to commemorate the early famous Constantia Wine that made Napoleon Bonaparte, King Louis Philippe of France and Frederick the Great of Prussia all clients of Groot Constantia. Other commemorative wines of this nature are Vin de Constance from Klein Constantia, first launched in 1986 and “1769” from Buitenverwachting first launched in 2007.
Over the decades many old bottles have been unearthed on the estate. The photograph below shows a bottle dated 1821 and bearing the Grand Constance name. Constantia bottles, bottle shards and bottle seals dating from as far back as 1774 have been found in far corners of the globe in some unusual circumstances: One bottle was found at the bottom of the ocean in the archipelago outside Stockholm in the late 1940’s by a diver; three bottles were discovered in the cellar of a castle near Belgium that date to the period 1760 – 1840; a bottle piece featuring the Constantia bottle seal was discovered on a beach in the Delaware Bay and identified by historians to be part of the cargo of the Severn – a ship that was stranded there in 1774; another find was a very crude example of the Constantia wine seal – evidently far older than all the other examples – which was unearthed in an excavation in Meiningen in Germany.
It is crystal clear that the Groot Constantia brand has worldwide acclaim and reverence in history. Today the legendary wine estate is a national monument and celebrates 334 years of winemaking. The Cloete Cellar consistently plays a central role at Groot Constantia. It was the only place where the famous Grand Constance wine was ever produced, the cellar forms part of an even more integral part of Groot Constantia’s unique new Visitors Route, that is not to be missed when visiting the estate.
More recently, a rare bottle of Grand Constance had been sold on auction for R967,300 by Strauss & Co, setting a new record by more than doubling the price fetched from another bottle sold in May 2021 for R420 000. Many of the ancient bottles and fragments of the earlier bottles can be viewed in the Cloete Cellar at Groot Constantia. Today Groot Constantia acts as a living museum, preserving the history and cultural legacy of the wine industry and Grand Constance as a heritage wine.
Pay a visit to the oldest wine estate to view the beautiful old bottles of Grand Constance.
For bookings contact:
Open 7 days a week 10h00 – 17h00
Last tasting ticket at 16h00
Production Cellar | Cloete Cellar | Manor House
Wine Tasting & Retail Shop
09h00 – 18h00 daily
Last tasting ticket at 17h00
Sources: Groot Constantia, IOL, WoSA.