History is a very marketable product. If you’re in any doubt about that, just consider the hoards of tourists that flock to Greece and Rome to gape at the ancient ruins.
South African wine has an impressive history and it’s good to see that some wine producers are marketing it.
You can buy history in a bottle in the Constantia valley.
Back in the days of Napoleon the Cape was famous for the “sweet wines of Constantia.” In fact Napoleon is said to have called for a glass of Constantia wine when he was on his death-bed on St Helena Island.
Jane Austen wrote about it. King Frederick of Prussia enjoyed it. But alas, nobody knows exactly what it tasted like or how it was made.
Fortunately the winemakers of Constantia valley are great respecters of history and have spent a great deal of time and research trying to re-create those great Constantia wines.
Until recently the closest anybody has come was Klein Constantia’s delicious Vin de Constance.
Now Groot Constantia’s cellarmaster, Boela Gerber, has produced the historic estate’s own version, labelled Grand Constantia.
It is the result of several years of research, both into the wine and its packaging.
A fragment of a wine bottle was discovered during the archeological research into an 18th century shipwreck in the Delaware Bay. It carried a moulded seal with the words “con stantia wyn” on it. This seal has been reproduced on the elegant, long-necked bottle in which the new Grand Constantia is now offered.
The bottle itself is a copy of the hand-blown bottles typically used in the 1700s, sealed with scarlet wax.
Of course, each of those early bottles would have been slightly different.
The wine is rich, amber coloured and honey-and-apricot sweet, but beautifully balanced by natural acidity that prevents it being cloying. A really delicious treat.
To add to the historical connection, each bottle of Grand Constantia comes packed in oak shavings in an elegant oak casket made from old barrel staves.
This is certainly a wine for the serious collector. The only problem is that it looks too good to open.
I suppose the obvious answer is to buy several bottles. At R295 a bottle that may not be possible for some.
Diemersfontein is a delight
What a treat it was to attend the 10th anniversary celebrations of winemaking at Diemersfontein in Wellington.
Apart from producing wines of a very high quality (including some of the finest viognier I have tasted) the farm is a model of what the new South Africa could be.
Owners David and Sue Sonnenberg have established a fine school on the farm for children of the area (an even racial mix of pupils), farm workers who have been on the staff for a year are offered shares in a progressive BEE project that produces wines for export and runs guest cottages, artists and musicians are sponsored and encouraged and several of the farm’s protegees have gone on to win international acclaim.
After being shown some of the projects and experiencing the joyful atmosphere of the farm I came away wondering why our politicians get it all so wrong.
Diemersfontein shows it can be done without fuss.
Maybe we should leave the running of the country to our winemakers.
Photo: Harvest time, courtesy of Diemersfontein Wine Farm