South Africa's Klein Constantia Sold

Investment bankers buy historic Cape peninsula property
May 27, 2011

Klein Constantia, one of South Africa’s most historic estates, has been sold. Owner Lowell Jooste has entered into an agreement to sell the estate to Zdenek Bakala and Charles Harman, a pair of investment bankers affiliated with the Dutch-based BXR Group. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Located in the cool Constantia ward on the Cape peninsula, Klein Constantia is best known for its consistently outstanding dessert wine, Vin de Constance. The winery owns 200 acres of vines and produces 30,000 cases annually of Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, along with small amounts of a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cabernet-based blend.

But only the Vin de Constance, made from naturally dried Muscat de Frontignan grapes, is currently available in the U.S. market. The dessert wine has earned 11 outstanding ratings, including 94 points for the 2005 vintage, tying it for the highest-rated wine ever from South Africa. The wine is bottled in a distinctive recreation of an 18th century bottle shape; the wine was one of the favorites of European royalty and the exiled Napolean Bonaparte in the 1700s.

The winery was created from a portion of the historical Constantia estate, which dates back to the 17th century (along with Klein Constantia, the Groote Constantia, Buitenverwachting and Constantia Uitsig wineries are the descendants of the original estate). The property had fallen into disrepair when it was purchased by the Jooste family in 1980. Klein Constantia wines debuted in 1986.

Bakala is a former investment banker from America and the principal shareholder in BXR Group, a private equity group. Harman is from the U.K. and was head of U.K. Investment Banking for J.P.Morgan until January 2011. He now serves as CEO of BXR Group.

"We are buying the winery as a result of our longstanding links with South Africa, in particular the Cape Peninsula, where Klein Constantia is located, and our appreciation of the wines produced there," Harman told Wine Spectator. "Vin de Constance is a wine that my family and I have particularly enjoyed over many years, and we consider the farm to be one of the most beautiful places in South Africa."

According to Harman, Jooste will stay on as managing director and winemaker Adam Mason, who has been at the estate since 2004, will also be retained. "It will be business as usual at the winery. We are not planning any changes to the team or the operations," he said. "We hope that over time we will be able to support them in producing outstanding wines. We will also be very sensitive to protecting the extraordinary historic heritage of Klein Constantia."

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