CONSTANTIA, SOUTH AFRICA
I’ve spent many a day wandering the grounds at Groot Constantia and have experienced it at sunrise, in the rain, on hot summer afternoons and with late afternoon light catching the last vineyard blocks in the east. In this time I’ve discovered beautiful, quiet corners of this wonderful estate nestled on the slopes of Constantiaberg and Vlakkenberg.
This year Groot Constantia turns 333 years old and with such incredible wine production over the years we need to celebrate their deep rooted South African wine history and Cape heritage.
Here are 3 reasons to inspire a visit to Groot Constantia soon!
1 – The estate is PHOTOGENIC
Packed with long, tree-lined avenues, beautiful Cape Dutch architecture, endless blocks of vine with both ocean and big mountain views – Groot Constantia is a beautiful estate to explore.
It has so much to offer across any season. In summer it’s all about lazing on the lawns, picnicking under the willows at Simon’s Restaurant with a bottle of crisp, chilled Sauvignon Blanc or early morning runs through the vineyards.
Harvest is well underway and leaves in the vineyards are beginning to transform into their spectacular autumn colours, making for the perfect backdrop to create incredible photographs.
My suggestion right now is to head in early and wander the vineyards looking for the best composition for your desired images. After an hour or so stroll over to Jonkershuis for a coffee and breakfast to recharge whilst soaking up the warm autumn sun under the oaks.
With breakfast settled, keep exploring the historical quarter before popping into the Cloete Cellar for a wine tasting. My favourite is doing a standard tasting of 5 wines where you can pick your preferences depending on who you’re with, what you’re feeling like drinking or even based on what the weather is like! You’ve got the freedom.
Think cozy fireplace dinners at Jonkershuis during the winter months while enjoying a bottle of full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. And then in spring, after doing a chocolate and wine paring, take a late afternoon stroll through the vineyards in warm sunshine while breathing in the fresh mountain air.
The rose-lined roadway leading to the production cellar and Simon’s Restaurant makes for stunning shots, especially late afternoon just before the sun dips behind the mountains. Continue walking and head up the oak and agapanthus lined avenue to reach the historical bath were you can relax with a book in hand at this quiet, shaded spot.
The vineyards are wonderful to meander through at sunrise too, with incredible light often catching dew drops on the leaves. The eastern blocks afford the best views towards the Manor House, and the upper western blocks have the finest views over the Constantia valley as well as towards False Bay.
2 – Exceptional WINE production
The Constantia valley typically produces excellent Sauvignon Blanc wines, and Groot Constantia is no different. The estates southeast facing slopes receive the cool ocean breeze from False Bay in the summer months, prime conditions for this cultivar in getting that fruity crispness we’ve come to expect. Each year there is excitement over the new vintage.
However Groot Constantia offers so much more. The vineyards across the large property vary with aspect and allow a wide range of other varietals to be planted and nurtured into highly successful wines. The red wines that Boela Gerber and his team have produced over the years have outshone their white counterparts. The 2015 Shiraz vintage is one to look out for on the shelves and has raked in the awards.
Boela Gerber, winemaker at Groot Constantia, is the chairperson of the Cape Winemakers Guild, a body representing the finest in the business. He’s a big believer in allowing the wines to do the talking by early intervention in ensuring that a quality grape is produced, all with minimal influence.
I more often than not lean towards drinking a glass of one of their reds, either the Gouverneurs Reserve (red) or Shiraz, however I also am a big fan of the smooth and complex Gouverneurs Reserve (white) which is a Semillon driven blend with Sauvignon Blanc.
Read through the list of awards here. Do so with a glass of vino, it’ll take you a while!
3 – The rich HISTORY
One has not truly experienced South African wine without tasting a bottle of Groot Constantia’s finest. This estate is the home of our nations wine industry and dates back to 1685. You’ll see the “1685 Constantia” print on all the Wine of Origin Constantia bottles.
Groot Constantia is rich with history and a good starting point to learn more is to visit the Manor House, part of the Iziko Museums of Cape Town, where it is filled with historical pieces affording a glimpse into life of the past. All the tasting venues however also contain insightful info boards which you can read while sampling the latest vintage of Constantia Wyn. The newest tasting room, located at the Cloete Cellar, contains museum space too – do your wine tasting here as you can wander about the old artifacts with your glass of elegant Merlot. The famed natural sweet wine, Grand Constance, produced from white and red Muscat grapes, has its origins in this cellar and was a Napoleon Bonaparte favourite. If you ask the tasting room staff kindly they may even pour you a glass!
A great option is a purchase a Visitors Route Experience ticket which gets you access to the core highlights of Groot Constantia. For just R95 you get:
- Entrance to the Groot Constantia Manor House
- Entrance to the Cloete Cellar
- Wine Tasting
- Momento Crystal Glass
- Modern Day Cellar Tour – self-guided audio
- Vineyard tour – self-guided audio
It’s arguably the most instagramable wine estate in the Cape! Start planning, head out soon for a Saturday adventure and share your experiences on social platforms hash-tagging #FeelGrootConstantia & #Celebrating333YearsTogether