From pleasing the palate of a tactical genius to quaffing in a time of change – follow the wine journey of Napoleon and Frederic the Great of Prussia and Groot Constantia’s Hendrik Cloete. As one of the premier songwriters of the rock era, Robbie Robertson, said: “You don’t stumble upon your heritage. It’s there, just waiting to be explored and shared.”
Quaffing in a time of change
The 18th century was a time of enlightenment and promise. Philosophers pondered the meaning of it all, but mostly dreamed of a brighter age, which, low and behold, dawned in the wake of the French Revolution spearheaded by none other than the staunch Groot Constantia fan, Napoleon.
With the help of Napoleon’s influence, monarchies made way for republics as the world – and modern history – experienced seismic shifts creating the global order as we know it today. Napoleon went on to become a dictator presumably giving in to an unquenchable lust for power.
He eventually found himself on Saint Helena island in the Atlantic Ocean quenching a different but equally big thirst for Constantia’s “Grand Constance”, by then, world famous wine. In 1821 he succumbed to stomach cancer, but his legacy lives on influencing everything from legal recourse to military strategy from Japan to Quebec.
Pleasing the palate of a tactical genius
Another Groot Constantia patron that shaped the modern world was Frederic the Great of Prussia. A teenage runaway turned king, Frederic the Great’s reign lasted from 1740 to 1786. Much in the same vein as Napoleon, Frederick the Great was a proponent of enlightened absolutism.
He modernised the Prussian bureaucracy and civil service and reformed the judicial system. Regarded as the greatest military tactical genius of all time, he was revered by Napoleon who shared not only his love for the battlefield, but also his taste for Constantia wine. During a visit to Frederik’s tomb in 1807, Napoleon remarked to his officers, “Gentlemen, if this man were still alive I would not be alive.”
A humble winemaker’s legacy
It was also in the 18th century that Groot Constantia’s first winemaker, Hendrik Cloete, surveyed the estate’s vineyards in pursuit of perfection.
Cloete planted new vines to replace the neglected plants initially installed – his efforts prompting the VOC to request an increase in the farm’s production. By 1780 Cloete had already planted 10 000 new vines and made every vintage leaving Groot Constantia’s gates himself.
The Groot Constantia winemaker’s new cellar was considered one of the best in the Cape; the wines produced there achieving world fame. His family carried on and maintained his standards after his death, and later supplied wine to Napoleon on St. Helena and King Frederic of Prussia.
Present day excellence
Today, Groot Constantia wine is still enjoyed all over the world and celebrated as much for its historic importance as it is for its current-day excellence. In commemoration of the estate’s rich history, the Groot Constantia Grand Constance label has been revived and re-packaged.
“Grand Constance” was one of the original South African brand names enjoyed and loved by Napoleon, Louis Phillipe (King of the French) and Frederic the Great of Prussia. Modelled on remnants of bottles dating back to the late 1700s, Groot Constantia’s Grand Constance is a celebration of the legendary wines that became world famous.
It is the perfect embodiment of Groot Constantia’s heritage that lives on inspiring and delighting world leaders and wine lovers across the globe.