When you think of Africa, do you associate it with prestigious wines?
Did you know South Africa has been a wine-producing country for over 350 years?
South Africa is the 9th largest producer of wine in the world
Living in Cape Town, we are surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and immense beauty. To the North, the rugged terrain of Cederberg mountains beckon the most adventurous explorers, following the faded footsteps of Khoi-San hunters imprinted on red sands. Venture to the West and you will smell the ocean-air, lazy summer days on the beach whilst sipping sundowner with your friends. Drive 150 km towards the South, and you will reach the southernmost point of the African continent… two quiet seaside villages, L’Agulhas and Struisbaai rest at the meeting place of Atlantic and Indian ocean. Chat with a Cape Townian, and they will casually joke that anywhere to the East of the Mother City is “everywhere but here, it might as well be Johannesburg.”
If you are a first-time visitor, you are likely to spend the first 48hours taking in the sights: Table Mountain, Robben Island, VA Waterfront, Cape Point, Muizenburg and more. By your second lunch, you will notice Cape Town’s choice of beverage: a glass of Pinotage wine served with the juiciest steak, or Chenin Blanc with grilled linefish of the day. This is because the Cape winelands enjoy a Mediterranean climate with cool, wet winters and warm dry summers – perfect climate to grow wine grapes! The top five grape varieties in South Africa are Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Colombard, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc.
How did it all begin?
Nestled in the fertile valley of Constantia, Groot Constantia was the first wine farm established in South Africa – the origins of Africa’s largest wine industry. The first owner, Commander Simon van der Stel of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) arrived at the Cape of Storms in 1679. He was an avid viticulturist and learnt the art of wine and brandy making at his vineyards in Muiderbergh, Netherlands. It wasn’t long before he fell in love with the Cape, and began planting grape vines around his estate.
This year marks the 330th year of winemaking at Groot Constantia. I chatted with Floricius Beukes, Viticulturist and Estate Manager about the vineyard’s eco-friendly practices – organic composting, canopy management and using ladybug as a pest control! In today’s age where machinery is used in preference to manual labour, I was surprised to learn that Groot Constantia maintains the tradition to prune by hand! Truly a labour of love.
What can you experience at Groot Constantia?
As you can imagine, there are much to see and do at the vineyard. Start off at the Orientation Centre – with a permanent exhibition curated by the Iziko Museum, you will find original photographs of the farmstead and a selection of old Cape furniture. In fact, the entire estate is a national heritage site! If you are an Art history buff, you should take a close look at the gable of the old Cloete Cellar. The sculpture on the pediment of the wine cellar is Rococo in design, and believed to be the work of German sculptor Anton Anreith (1754 – 1822).
Learn about the art of winemaking with a 45-60min tour of the wine cellar, you will hear about the different soil types at Groot Constantia (and the grape varieties planted in each), ending with a wine tasting! I have a huge sweet tooth, so I went on an extra Chocolate & Wine pairing experience – absolutely delicious!
You can’t fully enjoy wine without a delicious meal, right? For a taste of authentic Cape Malay cuisine, stop in at Jonkershuis bistro and try their Bobotie. On a hot day, grab a picnic basket at Simon’s Restaurant and relax on the lawn overlooking the Groot Constantia vineyards!
Lisa & Ovi