Gold nectar of mortal kings and queens around the world
Iconic, romantic, notable; Vin de Constance is historical and distinguished. And, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you may be looking for something extra special to surprise your date or loved one with. Well, nothing suggests sophistication more than a well-chosen dessert wine. And, Vin de Constance is one of the most famous of them all. Using Muscat Blanc á Petit Grains varietal, it is produced by an estate called Klein Constantia, nestled in the Constantia valley and approximately twenty kilometres from Cape Town, South Africa. This estate has vines planted as far back as 1685, making it part of the oldest estates in South Africa and is celebrated for its 300-year prominent contributions in wine-making.
Vin de Constance carries with it a certain romance and to say that is well-known is an understatement. Some have hailed it as the Y’quem of the Southern Hemisphere (yet far more affordable). Matured in French oak, it is a naturally sweet wine which features on dessert wine lists the world over, and has the colour of golden honey. It is not fortified, yet somehow is celebrated essentially for its fortifying properties upon one’s constitution. Exceptionally popular back in early 18th and 19th centuries it was revered and collected by royalty and emperors. Writers sang it praises too. It appears in the prose of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility where it was recommended for its healing properties for one of the main characters Mari-Anne, after her heart was broken. Charles Baudelaire also alluded to its greatness in his poem anthology Les Fleurs du Mal where he states that kisses from his beloved are far better than Constance. It was also reportedly collected and relied upon by Napoléon who had it delivered while in exile on St. Helena and legend has it that he drank a bottle a day… An expensive habit.
More recently, it was mentioned in E.L James’ second book in the trilogy, Fifty Shades of Darker. The 2004 vintage is served alongside sugar encrusted candied figs and maple ice-cream in one of the scenes of the book; putting it back on the map in a big way and renewing interest in its history. Yet, glorification aside, it really does stand up on its own. Depending on vintages, it can have notes of honey, fig, mango, apricot peeking through. Maybe, even a green-tea finish. Plus, it continually gains awards from around the world. So much so, that Michelin-star chef Michael Roux wrote an entire cookbook devoted to recipes centered around this multi-flavoured golden nectar.
I’m sure by now, you are no doubt dying to try some of this much-vaunted stuff…
So, where can you find this iconic dessert wine in Dubai?
The Agency at the Jumeirah Madinat complex keeps it on their wine list in case you are craving a glass on a Thursday or Friday night out. Overlooking the Madinat’s beautiful waterways, this is a great place to sample a glass of something special.
At One & Only at the Palm, Yannick Alléno’s is on fire creatively. Based at Stay, he has created a beautiful concept menu called Extractions. Each course is carefully paired with an especially prepared extraction that aims to capture the essence of the ingredient and flavour that it encompasses. For dessert, the course consists of a Charlotte apple cake which is served in an Alaska-baked style alongside Calvados (an apple brandy from Normandy) and the paired extraction consists of mushroom, date and Vin de Constance. An intriguing combination to say the least. Of course, it features on their wine list too. The 2011 vintage can be purchased by the glass and was described as having flavours of apricot, marmalade, ginger and spice. Perfect for a winter’s evening out.
The Blue Elephant which is renowned for its Thai culinary dishes features Vin de Constance on its dessert wine menu. After indulging in one of their signature dishes like the Royal Platter or the Mieng Kham – caramelized coconut sauce along with stuffed, spicy Piper Sarmentosum leaves you might not feel like a whole dessert. Instead of coffee, try a dessert wine instead.
Hakkasan has one of the most impressive and carefully curated wine, champagne and sake collections in the UAE. The also provide wine tastings every Tuesday night which are worth going to. And if you are intrigued enough to try Vin de Constance, the best part here is that you can buy it by the glass of the 2009 instead of the bottle which is great because usually dessert wine isn’t for everyone and you usually only want a singular glass to round off your meal.