This morning we are delighted to release one of the world’s truly great sweet wines heralding from South Africa. Namely, Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2017 (Vdc). The 2017 vintage has received one of its highest ever scores with 97 points from James Suckling, ‘this is really sensational as always with dried-apricot, dried-pineapple and honey character with salted nuts and hints of white syrup. It’s very sweet, yet energetic and intense. It goes on for so long. And then again. Yet, it remains balanced. A great sweet wine through and through.’ It famously comes in that stunning 500ml bottle, less than a bottle, more than a half and perfect for a glass of fabled sweet wine, before to after lunch, or dinner. The price today is £234 IB for 6x50cl which when compared to its closest rivals in the mythical great sweet wines is exceptional value. It must be the best priced great wine to be found from anywhere. We are also delighted to offer cases of three magnums, 3x150cl for £387 IB.

 

Legendary it is, in fact, in the 18th and 19th Centuries, it bejewelled European courts, preferred to Yquem and Tokaji. Kings vied for its possession, much loved by Louis Philippe, Napoleon, Frederick the Great, Bismarck, as well as a favourite of the British Parliament and the Royal Palace alike. It also captured the imagination of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Baudelaire, all who mentioned it in their literature, making it the sweet wine ‘rock-star’ of its age. After suffering devastation in the 19th Century due to phylloxera, it fell into the doldrums. However, in 1980 the derelict Estate was bought by Dougie Jooste, which has provided the catalyst for its renaissance. Remaining true to its heritage the vineyards were replanted with Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and with the help of Professor Chris Orferr of Stellenbosch University, winemaker Ross Gower and viticulturalist Stiaan Cloete, re-created the splendour of the past, releasing their first vintage in 1986. Since then they have not looked back, producing vintages that have consistently featured among the world’s top wines. In 2007 the vintage was awarded 97 points from Neal Martin of The Wine Advocate, thus becoming the highest rated South African wine ever. In 2008, it was served to the Queen at the state banquet for Chinese president Xi Jinping at Buckingham Palace and the 2009 featured in Wine Spectator’s top ten wines of 2015.

 

Klein Constantia was the first wine farm founded in South Africa, established in 1685 by the Governer of the Cape, Simon van der Stel. He was a keen viticulturist and he chose the spot for its decomposed granite soil, sited amidst ancient trees on the upper foothills of the Constantiaberg in a valley facing the False Bay. As such, it has sea on both sides, taken together they provide a cooler climate, helping it retain balanced acidity and minerality. It was the re-factoring of these conditions which drove the new project and it is romantic that Stiaan Cloete’s forefathers owned Klein Constantia in the early 19th century. Today they begin harvest in January, which helps maintain the acidity, harvesting up to 20 or 25 times through the seasons, with the selections made by 60 to 80 pickers. Fermentation is carried out on the skins, which is a replication of how it was made for centuries. It is aged in 225 litre oak barrels and since 2009, they have used acacia barrels, which have double thick staves and add flavours of spice, famously cloves. It is even said that they selected the original stock used in Constantia 300 years ago when replanting.

 

In 2011 the Jooste family sold Klein Constantia to Czech-U.S. “zillionaire” Zdenek Bakala and UK banker Charles Harman. Shortly after this acquisition they entered into a merger with Anwilka, which boasts Hubert de Brouard, owner of Chateau Angelus and Bruno Prats, former owner of Cos d’Estournel, as shareholders. This promises a great future, in keeping with its great past.