The Dutch governor Simon van der Stel (1639-1712) acquired in 1685 southeast of Cape Town in what is today South Africa an approximately 750 hectare property, which he called "Constantia" (persistence) after the virtue he valued (not after his wife - as you often read - because her name was Johanna). But he was not the first, because three years earlier a winery was founded there, which is still under the name Steenberg consists. Stel developed the property into a princely estate and dealt with fruit and especially with viticulture. He put great value on hygiene, He experimented with different grape varieties such as Palomino (which he called Fransdruif) Sémillon (which he called Wyndruif) Chenin Blanc (called Steen in South Africa) and Pontac ( Complexion du Cher ). From the white variety Muscat de Frontignan (in South Africa for Muscat Blanc ) was a partially sprit sweet wine which has achieved a legendary reputation worldwide and has been delivered to all rulers in Europe. Back then there were white ones amber and red variants.
A tasting by the British wine author Hugh shows how long-lasting this wine is Johnson, In 1970 he was able to enjoy a glass from the bottle of 1830 (140 years old at the time of tasting) cork was sealed with wax. He described this crescence as amber, sweet, full-bodied and extraordinarily harmonious. Stel retired in 1699, after his death in 1712 the large estate was divided into the three parts or wineries that still exist today Groot Constantia. Little Constantia and Bergvliet (today Buitenverwachting ) divided up. The new owner of Klein Constantia Johann Colijn reunited the two parts Klein and Groot in 1733. The quality and reputation of the wine had suffered greatly during this time. In 1778 the wealthy landowner Hendrik Cloete bought, by the way a descendant of a gardener of the first governor Jan van Riebeeck (1619-1677), the Groot Constantia manor. This managed to bring the property and the wine back to their old glory and even greater fame.
He was an absolute perfectionist, for example he had 100 slaves chase away every insect in the vineyards from the grapes. At that time the first pressing process was carried out by slaves, who, according to the sound of music, bare the grapes with their bare feet stamping, His son Hendrik took over the estate in 1794, continued the tradition of excellent wine and even expanded it. The European rulers preferred Constantia to other sweet wines Château d'Yquem. Tokaj or Madeira in front. He was one of them favorite wines of Napoleon (1769-1821), who had him delivered in large quantities to his exile in St. Helena until his death. The French Citizen King Louis-Philippe (1773-1850) even bought the entire 1833 vintage. Unfortunately, the descent then began in the 1860s. First came the mildew and then that phylloxera to South Africa and the tariff barriers for French wine lifted by the new ruler England in 1861 took care of the rest. Towards the end of the 19th century, wine production was stopped, Groot Constantia was sold to the state in 1885 for only 10,000 rand and all there Vines replaced by resistant varieties. Groot and Klein Constantia then stopped producing wine at the beginning of the 20th century.
Both wineries were only revived in the 1970s. Today, the Constantia winegrowing area comprises only around 400 hectares of vineyards between Hout Bay in the west and False Bay in the east - south of Cape Town at the foot of the 600-meter-high Constantia mountain. It is a ward (not belonging to a district) and belongs to the Coastal region, The vineyards lie on deep, red soil with a granite crack and weathered sandstone. The climate is relatively cool due to the nearby sea humidity very high. The annual rainfall is abundant at 800 to 1,000 millimeters, so no artificial irrigation as is required in many other South African wine growing areas. It will be the red wine varieties Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot. Pinotage and Shiraz ( Syrah ), as well as the white wine varieties Chardonnay. Chenin Blanc (Steen) Pinot gris. Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc cultured. The vineyards on Constantia today share the five wineries Buitenverwachting. Constantia Uitsig. Groot Constantia. Little Constantia and Steenberg,
Picture: © Wine Destinations