Constantia

Located in the suburban landscape of Cape Town, South Africa, the region of Constantia has cultivated vineyards since the late 1600s when Simon van der Stel established the Constantia Estate during his tenure as governor of the Cape of Good Hope.  It was this estate that was divided into three separate entities upon van der Stel’s death: Bergvliet, Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia.  It was the property of Klein Constantia that began to produce non-fortified dessert-style wines based on Muscat Blanc in the style of Tokaj and Sauternes.

These sweet wines were held in the highest regard by royalty and the fabulously wealthy from the mid-1700s through the late 1800s when phylloxera devastated the region and essentially destroyed the wine industry.  The revitalization of the wine industry began in earnest in the 1980s with plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon alongside the historical vineyards of Muscat Blanc.

Constantia contains some of the steepest vineyards in all of Africa, scaling up to 1300 feet (400m) above sea level on the slopes of Constantiaberg mountain.  Cooling sea breezes come off the waters of the South Atlantic Ocean courtesy of the Benguela current, which brings frigid waters up from the Antarctic and cycles just off the coast of Cape Town.  This cooling breeze helps keep both ripeness and rot at bay, while adding mild stress to the vines which forces them to dig deeper into the soil looking for nutrients and water.  This stress cycle reduces the vigor of the vines, resulting in more concentrated wines with fresh acidity.
 


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