The bottle of Grand Constance 1821
  • A 200-year-old bottle of wine, once intended for Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, will go on sale in South Africa later this month.
  • Only a dozen bottles of Grand Constance 1821 are thought to still exist.
  • This is the second to be sold in South Africa in a matter of months.
  • The first attracted a top bid of R420,000 in May.
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Later this month an incredibly rare bottle of wine is due to go on auction in South Africa: a single, unopened bottle of Grand Constance 1821.

The wine is prized for its rarity, and its age, and what the very few people alive who have tasted it describe as a "brooding and rich" reminder of a bygone era. It is also valuable simply for its storied history, with much of the vintage once destined to be drunk exclusively by the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte on St Helena, before his death saw bottles enter the market.

Yet the September sale will be the second time in just months that a bottle changes hands in South Africa.

In May, the Cape Fine & Rare Wine Auction saw a Grand Constance 1821 sold for record-breaking R420,000, nearly a fifth the value of the entire auction, on a bid from a UK-based client.

Now Strauss & Co says it will be selling a bottle on a 14 September auction of what it describes as an auction of "574 years of South African icons".

It has placed an estimate of R300,000 to R500,000 on the bottle.

The hand-blown glass bottle is in "incredible condition" for its age, the auction house says. It was purchased on auction in London in 1983 by the Malan family of Simonsig Estate, where it was carefully kept ever since. It is thought to have come from the cellars of Apsley house, the traditional seat of the dukes of Wellington.

The auction is also due to feature "South Africa's oldest living wine", a Jaubert Family Muscat d'Alexandrie 1800. For the last 200 years the Joubert family have carefully cared for the 115L barrel from which the wine is drawn, the auction house says. 

"Sitting quietly in an underground cellar on the family farm, there been periods when the barrel was left completely untouched for decades, which adds to its unique style and incredible stability, according to current custodian Cobus Joubert," says Strauss & Co.

It is expected to sell for between R50,000 and R70,000.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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