South Africa is increasingly well-known for its wines, with the wine country near Cape Town being a particularly popular stop with oenophiles and foodies alike. One highlight of any wine tasting trip near Cape Town is to the oldest wine estate in South Africa at Groot Constantia.
The property in Constantia was given to Simon van der Stel in 1685 by the Dutch East India Company, which had an outpost at the Cape of Good Hope. At the time, van der Stel was the Dutch East India Company’s Governor of this area, and it’s his name that later was used at Simon’s Town south of Cape Town. He built a manor house and began farming grapes for wine production.
In 1779, a wine-making family purchased the part of the Groot Constantia estate that included van der Stel’s manor house. It’s that family, the Cloetes, who is to thank for making Groot Constantia one of the area’s top wine estates, especially noted for its Constantia dessert wine. A fire in 1925 destroyed van der Stel’s original manor house, but it was rebuilt according to the original design.
Today, visitors to Groot Constantia can tour the wine-making facilities as well as the historic manor house (now a part of the Iziko South African Museum with rotating exhibits on display), the beautiful grounds, and enjoy a meal at one of the estate’s on-site restaurants. Groot Constantia is part of the scenic Constantia wine route, and the winery is also producing dessert wine again (it had stopped for more than 100 years) along with highly-rated red wines.