Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Lunch with Grand Constance at Groot Constantia

The history of the famous Constantia wines goes back to the 18th century. Groot Constantia is 331 years old and they have a purchase order from Napoleon, when the Cloete family owned the farm, and from customers as far back as the 1800s when this most sought after wine was sold to enthusiasts like King Louis Philippe and Jane Austen. We visited Groot Constantia last week to taste their recreation of the great Constantia sweet wine, Grand Constance
Setting up lanterns for an evening function in the Manor House
The wine in its elegant wooden box. It is sealed, as it would have been in the past, with Post office red sealing wax
It was a damp and cool winter’s day, so the open fire was well appreciated
A long table had been set up for lunch
Winemaker Boela Gerber sharing a joke with Broadcaster Guy MacDonald and Dr Winnie Bowman CWM and enjoying a glass of this sweet and complex wine. It is made from both white and red Muscat de Frontignan grapes, partially air dried, usually classified Natural Sweet but, sometimes, it has a little botrytis
It has a wonderful rich amber colour
The specially made bottles have a roundel in the glass which bears the word Constantia. Shards containing this mark have been found in a Delaware ship wrecked in 1774, in the foundations of a building in Germany and in very old bottles from Namur in Belgium. It contains 375ml, the historic bottle was 340ml. Boela started the move to recreate the wine 15 years ago. Was it fortified or not? No one knows. They didn't know about malolactic fermentation back then. He has tasted a 1790 and an 1821, so he knew where to take the wine
The Chef from Jonkershuis, who prepared the lunch
Canap├ęs were substantial. Goats cheese on brioche fingers and a rich chicken liver parfait on the same brioche. There were jars of chutneys and pickles and an almond and honey praline to add to these
The fresh goat's cheese
The lunch menu
Then we were asked to assist the chef in preparing the gnudi (ricotta dumplings)
We had to swirl one in a wine glass with some flour to coat it
Swirling away. Why isn’t it wine?
At last it was time for some Gouverneur’s Reserve white, an elegant wooded blend which was barrel fermented and aged for one year, made from 76% Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc, crisp and fresh with notes of orange peel, smoke, limes and lemons. It went perfectly with the Gnudi
Jean Naude, Marketing Manager for Groot Constantia, tells us about lunch while Di Brown tweets
Boela tells us about the Grand Constance and how they recreated it. We all make notes. They sent old wines to California and Geisenheim to be analysed. They leave the grapes on the vines for 6 weeks after ripening. The whole grapes are then dried until they have shrivelled to raisins. The wine is fermented on the raisins for a week and is left for 2 years to slowly continue natural fermentation in 3rd, 4th and 5th fill barrels
It has consistently won awards here and overseas and is recognised from a quality point of view
Light cheese dumplings on a butternut emulsion with toasted pecan nuts, crisp fried sage leaves, sage butter and wilted spinach , topped off with slivers of parmesan cheese. Lots of different textures, definitely one to try at home
Jean Naude shows us pictures of the ancient Constantia bottle seals and emblems found around the world
the bottles found near Namur
and old bottles of Grand Constance
Time for the main course of Deconstructed Kudu Wellington accompanied by a strip of crisp puff pastry, porcini and red wine sauce, cauliflower mash, roasted winter vegetables ... 
... parmentier potatoes and beetroot. This was served with the well oaked Gouverneur’s Reserve Red made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Its richness rode well with the kudu, winter vegetables and wine sauce
Dessert was a chocolate plate to astound. A warm and richly oozing Chocolate fondant with a salted caramel ice cream, a sliver of dark chocolate and orange terrine, richer than most could manage, and a gluten free chocolate cake, light as air. Of course this went well with the splendid Grand Constance! And a double espresso
A mating pair of Hadeda ibis on the ancient vineyard wall as we departed
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016
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