Saturday, December 5, 2015

Jane Austen and Constantia

When I find either a wine I'm familiar with in a book, or a wine in real life that I've only previously met in literature, it's very much like meeting a friend. I'm even happier when a characters preferences run along the same lines as mine.

It's hard to express how excited I was to find that my local wine shop sells Constantia, or the depth of my shame when I say I still haven't bought it, never mind tried it. It's a terrible omission. Constantia has a venerable history, Klein Constantia was the first vineyard in South Africa (established in 1685), it's sweet wine a favourite of Napoleon's, mentioned by Dickens and Baudalaire - and most importantly (because this is where I first found mention of it, and so it's who I associate it with) by Jane Austen in 'Sense and Sensibility'.

The fortunes of Constantia have gone up and down over the years, and the wine available today is a 1980's recreation of the 19th century legend - which is quite good enough to satisfy me. Mrs Jennings recommends it for its healing properties on a disappointed heart which has the ring of personal experience about it. Anyone suffering from a disappointment could do worse than hit a bottle of really good dessert wine (in moderation, obviously) and any Austen fan could do much worse than purchase a bottle of this (maybe from Berry Brothers & Rudd who have been around almost as long as Constantia, and whose shop doesn't look like it can have changed much since Austen's day).

I was going to make it a Christmas present for myself, but spent the money on gin instead (Bath Gin, it has a winking Jane on the label, she presumably wouldn't have drunk gin though, I doubt it would have been respectable enough in her day - though someone may be able to correct me on this). Maybe in the new year (a bottle should be about £35-£40), but definatley the next time I re read any of her books. or if I suffer from a disappointed heart. There's something irresistible about being able to drink  something she mentions like this; it's almost like being able to have a drink with her (well, sort of).


  1. I hadn't realised at all that this was something one could drink nowadays - so exciting. The thrill the time I discovered a bottle of orgeat syrup in a shop and knew one could finally 'taste' a Heyer drink. On that subject, have you ever tried ratafia?

  2. It is exciting! I have tried ratafia, and assuming it was the same thing that Heyer ment (not always guaranteed) it's very like Pineau de charantes which isn't to hard to find.

  3. I didn't realise ratafia would be that strong. Fascinating.

  4. Quite strong and quite sweet, but it was a hard drinking age. I'm going to miss doing these posts!