KLEIN CONSTANTIA, THEN AND NOW
Described as one of the world’s most beautiful vineyards, Klein Constantia is set amidst ancient trees and lush greenery on the upper foothills of the Constantiaberg, with superb views across the Constantia Valley and False Bay.
Its history dates back to 1685, when an enormous tract of land was granted to the Dutch East India Company’s tenth commander at the Cape, Simon van der Stel. He had specifically requested this property on the undulating foothills of Table Mountain’s backbone not only for its beauty, but also for its decomposed granite soils on slopes gently cooled by ocean breezes – the perfect conditions for quality winegrowing. It was about 15 times the size of a normal land grant and he named it Constantia, perhaps signifying his intention to make the Cape his constant or permanent home.
By the time of his promotion as governor in 1691, Van der Stel had 10,000 vines planted at Constantia, and when the first small cask of his wine was shipped to Dutch East India Company headquarters in Batavia in 1692, the feedback was good: “The wine from Constantia is of a much higher quality than any sent out so far, but obviously only obtainable in small quantities.”
KLEIN CONSTANTIA TODAY
In 2011, having become convinced that foreign investment with a long-term view was required in order to compete with the world’s greatest producers, the Jooste family decided to sell Klein Constantia to Czech-American investor and philanthropist Zdenĕk Bakala, who resides in Switzerland, and UK-based businessman Charles Harman.
Since then, celebrated Bordeaux wine personalities Bruno Prats and Hubert de Boüard have also come on board as shareholders, along with Swedish-born Hans Astrom as vice-chairman. Determined to see Klein Constantia live up to – and perhaps even surpass – its mythical reputation, they say: “We are privileged to be custodians of one of the most historic properties in the Cape, and regard the preservation of this heritage as a serious responsibility.”
Remarkably, Klein Constantia has had only three winemakers in the modern era: Ross Gower, Adam Mason and, since 2012, Matthew Day (who had previously been Klein Constantia’s assistant winemaker for five years). Day works closely with viticulturist Craig Harris, both of them determined to showcase the estate’s unique terroir through wines of unsurpassed excellence while simultaneously ensuring sustainability for generations to come.
As a WWF Conservation Champion, Klein Constantia’s vision is aligned with that of the World Wildlife Fund in aiming to unite conservation and agricultural development in a complementary, mutually beneficial manner.
After all, trends come and go, as do people, but the maritime and mountain influences on the estate remain unchanging, as do the ancient soils – predominantly deep, fertile, yellowish-brown and reddish-brown Oakleaf on the lower slopes, and dry, gravelly, less fertile Glenrosa with a saprolite subsoil higher up. Klein Constantia receives about 1000mm of rain annually, and the mean February temperature is 20.6°C.
Perfect conditions in which to grow one of the greatest and most intriguing sweet wines in the world, as well as a range of other exceptional cool-climate wines, most notably Sauvignon Blanc.
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