It was drunk by Napoleon in exile and immortalised in the works of Austen, Dickens and Baudelaire – now Vin de Constance, the legendary sweet wine from South Africa, is being released in a new vintage that marks a return to the fragrant style of its heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Produced by the renowned Klein Constantia estate, which was established on the Western Cape in 1685, Vin de Constance 2012 (from around £200 in bond, £312 per case, depending on the retailer) is the first vintage to be entirely overseen by Matt Day since he took over as head winemaker.
“I believe that this is one of our best Vin de Constance vintages ever,” says Day, highlighting “the balance between delicate perfumed freshness together with the typical evolved tertiary flavours”, a profile that he set out to achieve after consulting archives stretching back 300 years.
Bright gold, with luscious notes of apricot and honeyed pineapple, Vin de Constance is the product of Muscat de Frontignan grapes grown on the same vineyards that first produced the wine all those years ago. Unlike sauternes, which is made from botrytised grapes, it is made from grapes that have withered to the point of becoming raisins, giving it a particular honeyed character that is then enriched by a period of ageing in a combination of French oak, Hungarian oak and French acacia barrels.
Jane Austen may have recommended Vin de Constance for “its healing powers on a disappointed heart”, but the blues are not required to appreciate the charms of this nectar, which is limited to just a few thousand bottles worldwide – the smallest modern vintage of Vin de Constance so far.