Treasure Coast News, Business and Community July 2012 - Page 13

TCnbc Magazine - 13

Or, REALTOR(R) who doesn't know how to airbrush his own pics!

In recognition of his development of the Cape, the VOC granted Commander Simon van der Stel a huge tract of land in 1685 – an estate as large as the city of Amsterdam, in the beautiful valley of Constantia on the lower slopes of the Steenbergen. Here on Constantia – after Simon’s death in 1713 divided into Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia, also known later as De Hoop op Constantia – the famous Constantia wines were produced.

Although Simon van der Stel gave birth to the legend by producing the first excellent Constantia wines, it was Johannes Colyn and his family successors of De Hoop op Constantia, and since 1778 Hendrik Cloete (who built the beautiful homestead on Groot Constantia) and his family successors of Groot Constantia, who really made Constantia wines internationally renowned.

A century after the famous Constantia wine tradition ended as a result of the original vineyards at the Cape being destroyed by the phylloxera plant insect, Duggie Jooste and his son, Lowell, decided to bring the unique heritage of Constantia wines back to life.

Historically, the red and white Constantia sweet wines produced at the Cape during the 18th and 19th centuries were the only great wines ever to be produced in the southern hemisphere. These unique wines were among the most sought-after vintages until they vanished after 1886, mainly due to the outbreak of phylloxera which destroyed the original Cape vineyards.

During these centuries, Constantia wine was the most prized sweet wine throughout the world, particularly highly valued by the kings and the emperors of Europe. From the Prussian King Frederick the Great and King George IV of England to King Louis-Philippe of France, almost all the crowned heads imbibed it. Legend has it that Napoleon Bonaparte, while in exile on the isle of Saint Helena (1815–1821), requested a glass of Constantia wine on the evening of his death.

Appreciated by monarchs, the wine was also celebrated by numerous poets and writers. In Sense and Sensibility, the British novelist Jane Austen recommended to her heroine a glass of Constantia for its “healing powers on a disappointed heart”. Charles Baudelaire, in Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil), compares the charms of the beloved to the pleasures of the night and Constantia wine: “Even more than Constantia, than opium, than Nuits, I prefer the elixer of your mouth, where love performs its slow dance.”

Under the influence of the late Professor Chris Orffer, a passionate oenologist, the Joostes began to research and experiment in order to produce a wine faithful to the original vintage.

In order to “revive” the Vin de Constance, as they called their new Constantia wine, the new masters of Klein Constantia selected small-berry Muscat planting material, called Muscat de Frontignac, which had been identified as one of the original cultivars. Since the late 80s of the previous century these vines were planted only on a small section of the vineyards, just over two hectares in all. Like the method applied by the original Constantia owners, harvesting takes place at the end of March, giving the grapes ample time to ripens for a very long period of time on the vine, whence the concentration of sugar and fruity aromas.

Vin de Constance is possibly as close to the original Constantia wine as you can get. It is, however, doubtful if there will ever be a wine being produced on a par with the traditional Constantia wines. That is something of the past because the original vines do not exist anymore. The specific character of those wines made from the original vines was unique and can never be reproduced.