New 195-year-old attraction arrives in Groot Constantia, Africa’s oldest wine farm

2016-09-16 11:30 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town - The oldest wine producing farm in Africa, Groot Constantia, unveiled a piece of wine-making heritage on Thursday, 15 September when they welcomed back a bottle of 195-year-old Grand Constance to the property. 

The historical homecoming of the extremely rare bottle was marked with another attempt at capturing history - when 12 bottles of the 2009 vintage of Grand Constance were sealed in a time capsule in the Cloete cellar on the property, to be opened again on 2 February 2109 when the South African wine industry will be celebrating 450 years of existence. 

The time capsuled wine will then be 100 years old. 

According to Ernest Messina, chairperson of the Groot Constantia Trust, the ancient bottle of wine not only speaks of SA's wine-producing history but is evidence of South Africa's esteemed, age-old wine heritage and the place of its roots. 

This is the moment the 1821 vintage bottle was returned to Groot Constantia's Cloete Cellar, where it was produced by owners and workers nearly two centuries ago.

Grand Constance, the French translation for Groot Constantia, is certainly a wine that has represented South Africa's wine heritage through the ages, across several spaces. 

It received international acclaim in many European cities over the past two centuries, with emperors and kings, such as Frederick the Great of Prussia, Napoleon Bonaparte and King Louis Philippe of France, all vying for their share.  

ALSO READ: WATCH: Historic Vergelegen - Revolt, treasure, presidents and wine

In literature, Charles Dickens also celebrated the wine in Edwin Drood, Jane Austen's character recommended it as a cure for a broken heart to heroine Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility and Charles Baudelaire compared Constantia wine to his lover‘s lips in his most famous volume of poems, Les Fleurs du Mal.  

Before his death in 1821, Napoleon used to have 30 bottles of Grand Constance shipped over to St Helena Island every month to ease his exile. 

Throughout the years, the bottles have also resurfaced in far corners of the globe, in the most obscure places and under some very unusual circumstances... 

Whole bottles, bottle shards and bottle seals dating from as far back as 1774 have been found. 

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 early example of the Constantia wine seal – evidently far older than all the other examples - which was unearthed in an excavation in Meiningen in Germany. 

Want to see a bit of Groot Constantia history? Here's how: 

Following the homecoming of the wine, the age-old Cloete cellar is set to become the newest attraction on the farm. Throughout the property's wine-producing ages, it has the only place where the famous Grand Constance wine was ever produced. 

Come November this year, the cellar will form an even more integral part of Groot Constantia’ s unique new Visitors Route. 

Read more about the new route here: Groot Constantia to offer new visitors route experience

Half of the cellar will house a museum, whilst the other half will be an additional tasting room where visitors can have a unique heritage experience of the Groot Constantia’ s wines. 

Visitors to Groot Constantia will be able to view the 1821 bottle of Grand Constance in the Cloete Cellar museum. 

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