From The Twelve Apostles Hotel, it’s a mere 15 km hop over the peninsula to Groot Constantia. One moment you’re gazing at the sparkling Atlantic and the next, it’s the Indian Ocean you’re viewing from the rising vineyards of this historic estate.
Groot Constantia is the birthplace of South Africa’s wine industry. From its founding, Constantia wines made gifts for the Kings and Queens of Europe, as well as historical giants such as Sir Walter Scott and Napoleon Bonaparte. Indeed, Napoleon was supplied with Constantia wines throughout his exile on St Helena. As he lay on his deathbed, so the story goes, his final request was to be served a glass of the ‘liquid gold’ of the Cape.
Today the estate retains the elegance of its heyday. Approaching the original manor house through a valley of antique cultivars, it’s easy to tumble through history, and see the vineyards as they were seen by the estate’s founder, Governor Simon van der Stel.
Van der Stel was born at sea, and his innate sense of adventure led him to a job with the Dutch East India Company, running the Cape settlement as a refreshment station for ships en route to the Spice Islands. Van der Stel saw more in the station than just a ‘tavern of the seas’, and chose the Constantia Valley for his farm in 1663. As an experienced vintner, and stickler for quality, van der Stel’s wines quickly rose to prominence, a position retained to this day.
Groot Constantia now offers wine tastings, and cellar and vineyard tours. The estate has three museums. The Manor House is a 300 year-old Dutch-Renaissance beauty, replete with gables and 18thC furnishings. The Orientation Centre houses artefacts, photographs and paintings depicting the history of the estate and slavery. Lastly, The Cloete Cellar showcases antiquarian drinking vessels and winemaking equipment. Best of all, you know that a chilled Sauvignon Blanc awaits at one of the restaurants.
Groot Constantia has two restaurants with panoramic views of the vineyards and False Bay. Try Jonkershuis for more traditional Cape fare (or a picnic basket to be enjoyed on the lawns), or Simons Restaurant for more avant-garde, fusion cuisine.
For more info about opening times and tours, go to www.grootconstantia.co.za