Draped in her finest summer greenery in the cool leafy embrace of the Constantia Valley resides the Grand Dame of the Cape Winelands: Groot Constantia Wine Estate. For centuries, Groot Constantia has conceived wines of international repute; in particular, the flagship Grand Constance, which was the fancy of historic figureheads, writers, and royals, including Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, Authoress Jane Austen, writer Charles Dickens, and King Louis Philippe of France.
As further testimony to this sweet wine’s calibre, reputation, and reach, centuries-old bottles dating back to the 18th and 19th Century have been found within the collections of several European wine cellars, while older ones still were recovered from a sunken ship that was transporting produce from the Cape of Good Hope to the Delaware harbour in the eastern USA.
Grand Constance – named after its estate of origin – is an indelible part of Groot Constantia’s rich history and so it was an enormous privilege to be invited here to partake in a vertical tasting of this wine, preceded by a historic tour of the estate’s manor house and Cloete cellars.
Vertical Tasting of the Grand Constance
After a stroll around the estate, we all took our seats around a harvest table in the cool interior of Groot Constantia’s Jonkershuis Restaurant. Each guest was given six elegant dessert glasses filled with about an inch of amber liquid. This is Groot Constantia’s flagship wine, the Grand Constance, which the estate has been crafting for centuries. The flight of delicate glasses before us represented every second vintage from 2005 onwards (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015), affording us an appreciation for the evolution of this wine over time. At the helm of the tasting was Groot Constantia’s winemaker Boela Gerber who had us smell, taste, and regard each wine, sharing our comments and perceptions with each other.
To me, every vintage was absolutely delicious and, sipped one after the other, revealed a varied, nuanced nature from one vintage to the next. From honey, Turkish delight, nougat, and dried stone fruits of apricot and peaches to sweetly aromatic jasmine, fynbos, rose petals, and even lavender, each glass was a perfumed treasure trove of delicious treats. Sifting through each element of the Grand Constance’s bouquet was an exercise in discovery, like an Easter egg hunt.
Then came the taste test, which made it immediately obvious just why the Grand Constance was and still is such an enormous international hit. This honey sweet, fragrant liquid is ambrosia bottled. Behind that first tidal wave of honey sweetness comes gentle waves of nuts, fruits, and floral notes, all of which blend seamlessly and linger. I tried my hardest to show restraint and not empty each glass of its golden elixir but failed miserably, and where some of the more experienced of guests left a polite amount of wine in their glasses, I was left with a flight of very empty glasses at the end of the tasting.
Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the first of three courses to arrive and we enjoyed a long and leisurely lunch accompanied by Groot Constantia’s gorgeous Governor’s red and white wine blends.
Every day is history in the making
Groot Constantia may be the Cape’s oldest wine farm, but it isn’t one that relies on its rich history for its current reputation. Every day, the team here is as active in the pursuit of perfection and consistency (constancy…Constantia) as it was under the direction of her original steward: Commander Simon Van Der Stel of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
Peruse the collection of antique wagons and wine bottles at the new visitor’s centre, embark upon a tour of the Cloete cellars where all the magic happens, watch the ducks bob up and down on the reflection pool, and sit down to lunch at the atmospheric and farm-style Jonkershuis restaurant. Many people flock to this estate to experience this history but it is my most ardent hope that they also take the time to sit down within her walls or garden to experience her wines – the lifeblood of this Grand Dame of the Cape Winelands
Groot Constantia is open seven days a week. For bookings and enquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 794 5128. For more information, check out the website at www.grootconstantia.co.za.