26 July 2019

South Africa’s oldest wine-producing farm, Groot Constantia, was honoured by French dignitaries at a special event held at the Palais de Luxembourg in Paris, France, on Wednesday 24 July, following the huge successes of the unique ‘Wine of Exile’ exhibition hosted at Groot Constantia Wine Estate celebrating Napoleon’s 250th birthday.

Napoleon Emperor Chair
Standing next to the throne of Napoleon (left to right) is
Dr Messina, Chairpeson of Groot Constantia
Ms Elisabeth Lamure, Senator, Chairperson of the Inter-Parliamentary French South African Friendship Committee
Mr Olivier Cadic, Senator for French citizens living abroad

Groot Constantia, which this year celebrates its 334th birthday, is renowned in history, poetry and famous literature for its Sweet Wine, a red and white blend of Muscat that was favoured by Napoleon during his exile to the island of St Helena, from 1815 until his death in 1821, and loved by famous icons across the world, including Frederick the Great of Prussia, and Louis Philippe.

Chairperson of The Groot Constantia Trust, Dr Ernest Messina, was invited to give a presentation to French Dignitaries at the Napoleon Boardroom, housed in the buildings of the French Senate. At the special event, Dr Messina unpacked the rich and fascinating history and relationship between Groot Constantia, Napoleon, and the iconic Constantia Wyn, now known by its French name,  Grand Constance (now the oldest wine in South Africa, and an important brand in the World Wine Heritage).

Napoleon Room Table Discussion
Dr Messina gave a presentation to French and South African diplomats, MPs and dignitaries, including former Ambassador of France to South Africa, H.E. Mr Christophe Farnaud and French Senator and Chairperson of the Inter-parliamentary Friendship Committee Elisabeth Lamure.

In his address to French and South African diplomats, MPs and dignitaries (including former Ambassador of France to South Africa, H.E. Mr Christophe Farnaud and French Senator and Chairperson of the Inter-parliamentary French South African Friendship Committee Elisabeth Lamure)  Dr Messina explained the link between Groot Constantia and Napoleon.

Group In Emperor Room
The event took place in the Napoleon Boardroom, housed in the buildings of the French Senate.

The agent of the English East India Company based in Cape Town at the time, Joseph Luson (1783 -1822), was tasked by the British authorities to provision not only the French living in Longwood House, but also the civilian population, the garrison and the regiments stationed on the Island, as well as the ships of the Royal Navy patrolling the waters around St Helena. Every month, 30 bottles of Groot Constantia’s wine (Constantia Wyn) were shipped to St Helena during the former Emperor of France’s time in exile.

Luson purchased the wine directly from the Cloete family, who owned Groot Constantia at the time. His business relations with the family changed significantly on 24 May 1817 when he married Catharina Maria (Mary) Cloete, the daughter of Pieter Lourens Cloete, the wine merchant of Groot Constantia, and his wife, Maria Catharina van Reenen. Luson also appointed his brother-in-law, Daniel Jacob Cloete (1800 – 1879), as his confidential clerk in 1819. The names of ‘ Den Heer J Luson’ and ‘DJ Cloete’ are amongst the regular clients recorded in the Groot Constantia Wine Sales Register, meticulously kept from 1800 – 1860.  The historic Cloete Cellar where Constantia Wyn was made was designed by French Architect, Louis Thibault, and it still forms an important part of the Groot Constantia heritage and experience.

Grand Constance Exhibition
Groot Constantia’s Grand Constance was on exhibition at the Senate (High Chamber of French Parliament), located in Paris, at the Palais du Luxembourg in the Napoleon Boardroom.

Today, The Groot Constantia Wine Estate is South Africa’s oldest wine-producing farm, celebrating 334 years of success.  The estate is now a Provincial Heritage Site and a living museum open to the public seven days a week, where guests can walk its historic vineyards on the Visitors Route, take a tour through the Cloete Cellar — the birthplace of the world-famous Grand Constance wine and taste Groot Constantia’s many award-winning, hand-crafted wines.

Dr Messina’s special presentation is the latest in Groot Constantia’s long history of partnership and work with France. Earlier this year, Groot Constantia hosted its illuminating ‘Wine of Exile’ exhibition, a collaborative project between the French Embassy, The Groot Constantia Trust, Iziko Museums of South Africa, the Napoleon Foundation, the Government of St Helena, and the French National Domains of St Helena.

For more information visit www.grootconstantia.co.za or connect with Groot Constantia via social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @GrootConstantia.


For more information contact Lila Jutzen 021 794 5128 lila.jutzen@grootconstantia.co.za

About Groot Constantia

The Groot Constantia Wine Estate is South Africa’s oldest wine-producing farm – in existence for 334 years this year.  Wine has been produced on the estate without interruption since 1685 when Commander Simon van der Stel of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was originally granted the land on which Groot Constantia stands.

It has changed hands many times over the centuries and now Groot Constantia is a  Provincial Heritage Site and a living museum with the task of preserving the history and cultural legacy of the South African wine industry for the people of South Africa.  The current owners of the estate, the Groot Constantia Trust, a non-profit company, has ensured that Groot Constantia is beautifully maintained and operated to the highest standards – delivering a top-quality experience to visitors.

Groot Constantia’s wines have collectively won well over 100 top awards in the past 10 years alone.

This is the only wine farm that is a member of the Big Six tourist destinations in Cape Town.  The other members include Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront, Robben Island, Kirstenbosch and Cape Point.