The history of the Constantia wine route is so intimately linked with that of the Cape that one cannot tell the story of the one without unintentionally accounting for the other. Constantia was the name of a vast property that carpeted much of the Constantia Valley as we know it today, extending all the way to Steenberg in Tokai. In 1685, this property was given to Simon van der Stel, the VOC (Dutch East India Company) Governor of the Cape of Good Hope. Over the ensuing decades, the property was broken up into the smaller estates of Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia, and Bergvliet, and grape farming took a firm foothold in the lush valley. All these centuries later, there are no less than 10 wine producing estates here, all of which contribute enormously to the rich fabric of the South African wine industry and that, when explored, offer an unforgettable food, wine, cultural, and historic experience. Here’s a peek at what there is to do – as well as a few wine farm recommendations - in the beautiful Constantia Wine Valley…
Wine tasting, naturally
Located on the cool ocean-facing slopes of the Constantiaberg in fecund, iron-rich soils of decomposed granite, Constantia’s vineyards are world-renowned for the quality of the wines they produce, particularly Sauvignon Blanc and other French varietals and blends. And so, any foray into the Constantia Wine Valley deserves a stop at a handful of estates for a wine tasting!
Try: Buitenverwachting (www.buitenverwachting.com) - a portion of the original Constantia Estate owned by Governor Simon van der Stel, this 150-hectare wine estate produces internationally acclaimed wines of great complexity with unique aromatic profiles.
Also: Eagle’s Nest (www.eaglesnestwines.com) - for 195 per person, you can take your wine tasting experience to a whole new level with a VIP wine tasting and guided walking tour in the vineyards (pre-booking is essential).
And definitely: Steenberg Vineyard (www.steenbergfarm.com) - located slightly further afield in Tokai, Steenberg routinely produces beautiful wines of an extraordinary calibre, with bottles so littered with shiny awards they look a little like Christmas trees!
Food, glorious food
What is wine without food? No visit to the Constantia Wine Route is complete without a fine dining (or casual fine dining) experience at one of its gorgeous wine estates. Most of the valley’s 10 estates have restaurants well worth a visit, but here are our favourites….
Try: Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia (www.chefswarehouse.co.za) - Chefs Warehouse, which delivers a multi-course fine dining menu, is one of the country’s best restaurants and routinely appears in the Top 10 of the Mercedes-Benz Eat Out Awards.
Also: Constantia Glen (www.constantiaglen.com) - for a more casual, yet no less delicious dining experience, try Constantia Glen’s short but sweet menu. The views from the tasting room and restaurant are stunning and their mouth-watering flammkuchen (German flatbread pizzas) are delicious.
And definitely: La Colombe at Silvermist (www.lacolombe.co.za) – one of the country’s and, in fact, world’s best restaurants, La Colombe offers an innovative and out-of-this-world gastronomical experience that is pure food theatre and absolutely unforgettable.
The history of Constantia Valley dates back to the very origins of the Cape as a fresh food station for the Dutch East Indian Company ships that were making the perilous journey around the tip of Africa en route to India. With their original Cape Dutch architecture, antique furniture collections, and artworks, many of the wine estates in the valley are serve as reminders of the valley’s multi-century history.
Try: Groot Constantia (www.grootconstantia.co.za) - a portion of the original Constantia owned by Simon van der Stel, this regal estate was also the Commander’s home. Today, visitors are invited to explore its handsome collection of lovingly restored historic buildings, homesteads, and manor house.
Also: Steenberg Estate – Established in 1682 by the indomitable Catherina Ustings Ras from Lübeck, Germany who braved a treacherous ocean crossing and the unknowns of a new continent to establish a farm that is, today, loved for its outstanding food, wine, historic appeal, and hospitality.
And definitely: Klein Constantia (www.kleinconstantia.com) - set amidst ancient trees and lush greenery on the upper foothills of the Constantiaberg, this estate – also part of the original Constantia estate – was declared “one of the most mythical vineyards in the world” by the French Institute des Paysages et Architectures Viticoles (Wine Landscapes and Architecture).
With roots that extend back to 1685, Constantia Uitsig has a long and rich heritage, as well as a firm focus on the future in terms of sustainability. In addition to wine tasting and history, the estate boasts a Heritage Market, a quaint row of cottages featuring the finest artisanal craft producers in their respective fields, including Sushibox, Kirsten’s Kickass Ice-cream, Nest Deli, Kind Kitchen, and Aegir Breweries.
Silvermist Wine Estate is home to a series of ziplines and platforms managed by SA Forest Adventures (www.saforestadventures.co.za), an exhilarating and unforgettable way to experience the high forests and mountains of the Constantia Wine Valley.
Groot Constantia maintains an impressive wine and cultural history museum, allowing visitors a glimpse into the history of the valley and the Cape. It’s also an enchanting place to kick off the day before sitting down to a wine tasting in the Cloete Cellar and lunch at Jonkershuis Restaurant.