Napoleon’s ‘Wine of Exile’ on display at Groot Constantia artefact exhibition

by | Mar 13, 2019 | News

A selection of historical wine artefacts are on exhibit at Groot Constantia until 21 June and visitors are being offered a rare chance to view these relics, which unveil the history of the wine that Napoleon drank while in exile on St Helena Island.



This unique exhibition, entitled “Wine of Exile: The wine of Napoleon on St Helena” has been organised to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Napoleon and is a collaboration between the French Embassy in South Africa, Groot Constantia, Iziko Museums of South Africa, the Napoleon Foundation, the Government of St Helena, and the French National Domains of St Helena.

Items from the selected collections that will be on display – amongst many others – include cut glass crystal wine goblets and glasses used by Napoleon whilst on St Helena; wine decanters; wine coolers; a ship decanter with outward sloping side and wide base for greater stability at sea; and the memoirs of Napoleon’s chamberlain that document details of Napoleon’s daily life on St Helena and his love for Constantia wine.

From 1815, until his death in 1821, Napoleon was banished to St Helena, an island located in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.  Every month, 30 bottles of Constantia wine were shipped to St Helena.

The exhibition, entitled “Wine of Exile: The wine of Napoleon on St Helena” is on display at Groot Constantia Wine Estate until 21 June.

Groot Constantia, is a centuries old brand that received international acclaim for its superior quality and began to fetch extremely high prices at well-attended auctions in many European cities – with emperors and kings, such as Napoleon, Frederick the Great of Prussia, and Louis Philippe (King of the French), all treasuring their share. 

The Wine of Exile exhibition is taking place in the historical Cloete Cellar at Groot Constantia, the original birthplace of the famous Constantia wyn (Constantia wine). The launch of the exhibition was officially opened by His Excellency the Ambassador of France to South Africa, Mr Christophe Farnaud, Her Excellency Ms Lisa Honan the Governor of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan Da Cunha, Ms Rooksana Omar, Chief Executive Officer of Iziko Museums of South Africa and Dr Ernest Messina, Chairperson of the Board of Groot Constantia Wine Estate.

“With such a notable and celebrated history to this centuries’ old South African brand we are suitably excited to have this collaborative exhibition taking place at Groot Constantia,” says Jean Naudé, CEO of Groot Constantia.  “As South Africa’s oldest wine producing farm – in existence for 334 years this year – and a National Monument, Groot Constantia, and the wines produced on the estate, have historic importance and represent the Cape’s rich cultural and wine heritage, as well as occupying an important position in global wine history.”

The not-to-be-missed Wine of Exile exhibition will be open to the public as part of Groot Constantia’s Visitors Route experience until 21 June 2019.

Visitors to the estate can look forward to admiring the items on the exhibition as part of the full Visitors Route, and can also then opt to try a wine tasting or a chocolate and wine pairing, before possibly enjoying lunch at one of the two restaurants housed on the estate.  A wonderful day out immersed in the rich history of one of South Africa’s most loved wine estates.

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