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200 year old ‘Napoleon wine’ up for auction

A rare bottle of the South African wine reportedly enjoyed daily by French emperor Napoleon in exile is being auctioned online this week.

Napoleon and Constantia wine

Napoleon Constantia

Grand Constance 1821.

The bottle of Grand Constance 1821, from South African estate Groot Contantia, is currently being auctioned online on CataWiki, closing on Friday 15 July – the day after Bastille Day that has come to symbolise the French Revolution. Bids were over £1,100 on 14 July.

Fewer than a dozen bottles of the 1821 vintage have been preserved.

Napoleon is known to have enjoyed Grand Constance wine while exiled on the island of St Helena, after his defeat at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.

According to Groot Constantia, the French Emperor had 30 bottles per month of the Grand Constance shipped over to St Helena, before his death in 1821.

Oz Clarke wrote in The History of Wine in 100 Bottles that ‘none drank [Constantia] as furiously as Napoleon.’

Whilst imprisoned on St Helena, Napoleon and his staff also enjoyed a bottle of Champagne per day, and 10 bottles of ‘claret’, according to official records.

Groot Constantia is believed to be the oldest wine estate in South Africa, producing wines since 1685.

Literary references

In 19th century novel Sense and Sensibility, Grand Constance is recommended for ‘its healing powers on a disappointed heart’. It is also referred to in Charles Dickens’s final and unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

More history and wine:

How Britain shaped the wine world

The British Isles has influenced certain wine styles more than any other nation. Julien Hitner looks back at the history

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