Constantia Wine Region

Constantia Wine Region

This is the most easily accessible wine region from the city area of Cape Town.  In off peak times it takes about 15 minutes to get there.  This region gets the wonderful cool sea breezes of False Bay and as such is a cool wine region.  As such the “star” varietal of the area is sauvignon blanc. www.constantiavalley.com

  • Groot Constantia – this is one of the Cape’s oldest wine farms and is well worth a visit for those who enjoy history.  The estate was granted to Simon van der Stel in the late 1600’s to say thank you for his contribution as governor of the Cape.  During his time as governor he settled the wine regions of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl.  In addition he was the first governor to turn the Cape into a money making proposition.  As such the VOC offered to grant him an estate to say thank you.  He elected to take the entire valley of Constantia.  Nothing humble about him!  To thank him, they also made his son Willem Adriaan van der Stel the next governor of the Cape.  Unfortunately he was sent back to Holland by the VOC (for more info see Vergelegen estate)  and when Simon died, none of his children came back to the country to inherit the estate.  It was sold and changed hands a few times before the Cloete family bought it.  The Cloete family would make the estate famous through the production of the sweet wines of Constantia.  This wine would be consumed by Napolean Bonaparte in exile and Queen Victoria, and written about by Charles Dickens and Jane Austin.  By the end of the 1800’s the Cloete family (next generation who inherited it) would be hit first by the odium (powdery mildew) and then by the phyloxera ( a root louse that caused the wine industry around the world to collapse).  The estate would become bankrupt and would be sold off.  Finally the South African government decided to purchase the estate in order to preserve this piece of heritage for the people of South Africa.  Today it still operates as a section 21 Company.  The money generated from the wines are used to conserve the buildings on the estate.  On Groot Constantia one can visit the beautiful old Cape Dutch architecture house, the old wine cellar which is now a wine museum and was the Cloete’s sale office for the Constantia wine, do breakfast or lunch at the Jonkershuis Restaurant or at Simon’s www.grootconstantia.co.za
  • High Constantia – this is a small boutique winery producing very good wines.  The owners favourite is the MCC (South African term for champagne), he also has a good sauvignon blanc and some excellent reds.  Don’t miss out on tasting the Sebastiaan red blend.  Note you will see the entrance to the tasting room just before you enter Groot Constantia  www.highconstantia.co.za
  • Klein Constantia – was bought in 1980 by Duggie Jooste who decided with his team to try and recreate the famous sweet wine of Constantia.  Years of research followed and along with wine maker Ross Gower they were extremely fortunate to find a special clone of Muscat de Frontignan propagated from vines, which in all likelihood came from the original stock used in Constantia 300 years before.  Today the Vin de Constance is sort after all over the world.  The wine has a wonderful balance of sweetness to acidity and it is well worth popping in to try the wine.  What particularly impressed me was a gentleman who came in and reported that his Vin de Constance 1990 vintage was corked – they asked no questions, simply heading into the cellar to get him another one.   Impressive!  Ps don’t miss out on trying the sauvignon blanc while you are there.  www.kleinconstantia.com
  • Buitenverwachting (meaning “beyond expectation”) – is one of the most beautiful estates to drive through.  It is such a contrast to have left town fifteen minutes before and then to be driving past rather plump cows and beautiful green fields.   Their red blend Christine has been a long time favourite of mine and it is well worth trying the different sauvignon blancs that they have on offer.   Buitenverwachting offer a lovely picnic experience over the summer (note that you have to book in advance in summer as it is extremely popular) and they are also home to a good fine dining restaurant with fairly formal service.  www.buitenverwachting.co.za
  • Steenberg – famous as the best estate for sauvignon blanc in the country. They revamped their tasting room about a year ago and it is a wonderful elegant venue with a giant chandelier that dominates the room.  Everything about the experience of visiting is relaxing in this beautiful setting.  In addition next to the tasting area is the beautiful little restaurant, which serves light meals and tapas in the later afternoon.  It is called 1682. Note that there is also a 5* hotel on the estate, as well as a fine dining restaurant called Catharina’s next to the hotel.  Steenberg is open 7 days a week for wine tasting.   www.steenberghotel.com
  • Constantia Glen – (not visited by me yet – but amazingly good wines!) – have just opened a tasting room to the public (Nov 2010) – as well as everyone else in the valley they have an exceptionally good sauvignon blanc.  In addition they have two excellent red blends – I particularly enjoyed the Constantia Saddle which is a cab-led  red blend. www.constantiaglen.com