Constantia, South Africa
See Groot Constantia wines we sell
Groot Constantia tells the story of the early days of Cape wine, and it all starts with the second Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel. As a Governor he played a central role in getting the Cape wine industry started. The center of Cape wines today is the historic town of Stellenbosch, which is named after him. He granted tracts of land to settlers, and encouraged vineyards as part of the many crops that were generally grown on an early Cape farm. Such was his interest in wine, that in 1685 he obtained for himself a large tract of land facing False Bay and named it Constantia. The planting of vines began in 1690. It is not known whether he was lucky or did extensive research in this matter, but Constantia happens to have some of South Africa’s finest soils and climate for winemaking. Simon van der Stel made and sold wine on his Constantia property, and not much is known about his wines. Groot Constantia still has the original buildings built by Simon van der Stel, and in addition to being a working winery, today it has a museum and is a national monument.
Boela Gerber, winemaker, holding a bottle of Grand Constance in our store 09/09/13
Constantia reached its hey day about 100 years later when Hendrik Cloete bought the estate in 1778. Under Cloete the Constantia Estate made the wine that was drunk by Napoleon while in exile on St Helena, was written about by Jane Austin in Sense and Sensibility, and was sought after by the royal courts in Europe. It was a dessert wine that made Constantia famous, and today Groot Constantia makes a similar version, in the same style bottle, called Grand Constance.
In 1885 the British Colonial Government purchased the farm from the Cloete family, following which the fortunes of this famous farm faltered due to phelloxera in 1886. Around the turn of the century the Anglo-Boer War put a further halt on most wine production in the Cape. The First World War followed that, and then the Great Depression, the Second World War and finally Apartheid. Following a long period of disrepair and neglect, Groot Constantia has been rejuvenated and is now a major tourist attraction. The modern era of winemaking takes advantage of soil types and micro climates, and white and red varietals are planted in sites that allow them to do well.