Cape Town - Groot Constantia plans to defend its reputation as the oldest wine farm in the country by enlisting the help of the Advertising Standards Authority's to prevent other well-known wine farms adopting the distinction.
Groot Constantia chief executive Jean Naudé says the farm is committed and morally obliged to ensure that the public image it projects is both credible and accurate.
The farm therefore approached an independent historian, Dr Con de Wet, to research which wine farm deserves the right to claim to be the oldest in South Africa.
Blaauwklippen and Boschendal, in particular, have apparently recently been professing to be the oldest.
In its advertisements Boschendal contends that it has been making wine since the late 1700s, and that the farm has been worked since 1685.
De Wet's finding is that Blaauwklippen was indeed handed to Gerrit Jansz Visser in 1682, and that he owned it until 1690, but there is no evidence that it produced wine at that time.
As far as Boschendal is concerned, De Wet's conclusion is that there are no supporting documents indicating that Boschendal had been handed to the first owner, Jean le Long, as early as 1685 or 1686. Le Long arrived at the Cape only in 1688.
Groot Constantia's title deeds were, according to De Wet, given to Simon van der Stel in 1685 and there are indications that he immediately began producing wine there.
De Wet concludes his report with the deduction that Constantia was the first farm to produce wine.
Naudé says the decision to get to the truth about which was the oldest wine farm was stimulated by Boschendal's aggressive attempts to establish its date of origin in its trademark.
The claims made by Boschendal, he continues, had begun to cast a shadow on Groot Constantia's unique heritage and historical position as South Africa's oldest wine-producing estate.
The Groot Constantia board had therefore decided that it was its public duty and commercial responsibility to commission an investigation into the history of the different farms.
According to Naudé the findings have already been discussed with the Boschendal directors, who have failed to respond, and Groot Constantia is now appealing to the advertising body to oblige Boschendal to respect history.
Tim Hutchinson, chief executive of Douglas Green Bellingham, owner of the Boschendal winery, declined to comment.
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