Groot Constantia Wine Tasting Tours in Cape Town

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Groot Constantia Wine Tasting Tours in Cape Town

Groot Constantia wine tasting tours give five generous samples.

Groot Constantia wine tasting tours give five generous samples.

DRINKING BEFORE NOON | Darrin Henry

Constantia wine farms in Cape Town produces some of the finest wines in South Africa. The Groot Constantia wine estate is the country’s oldest and most prestigious and offer cellar and wine tasting tours. A great place to have our first such experience.

I’ve always been sceptical of wine connoisseurs who poke their noses in wine glasses and claim that hints of summer can be detected, along with fruity and spicy aromas. But, it’s difficult to ignore the romantic intrigue of wine appreciation, so I’ve decided to put it to the test during this visit to South Africa.

Groot Constantia Wine Tasting Tours

Groot Constantia wine estate is a short drive from Cape Town; a quilt of grapevine rows covering the lower valleys of the Constantia suburbs, behind Table Mountain. ‘Groot’ means ‘great’ in Afrikaans. The Constantia wine route is a must do when in the city.

The sight of helicopters dropping hundreds of gallons of water onto the fires ravaging the hillsides is an unlikely backdrop.

Groot Constantia wine farms sits among beautiful scenery.

Groot Constantia wine farms sits among beautiful scenery.

Constantia wine farms under threat as helicopters fight to control wildfires.

Constantia wine farms under threat as helicopters fight to control wildfires.

Groot Constantia vineyards.

Groot Constantia vineyards.

The Wine Making Process

Our tour guide is Chantelle and the first surprise is that we head upstairs and not down into a cellar as I had expected.

Basics of the Groot Constantia wine making process is explained first, before we move into the large, production room. From the raised gangway which spans the room, we gaze down on wine equipment; huge silver fermentation cylinders attended by a handful of workers.

It’s all very clean and tidy and efficient looking. Our group of five taking the tour discover the time old method of ‘treading’ grapes has been mechanised – another silver cylinder thingy, this time lying side on, one for red wine, one for white.

Inside the wine making warehouse.

Inside the wine making warehouse.

Wine storage barrels of French oak waiting to be filled from the large silver fermentation tanks.

Wine storage barrels of French oak waiting to be filled from the large silver fermentation tanks.

Wine equipment of the modern day, grapes are crushed in the two horizontal tanks, no more ‘treading’.

Wine equipment of the modern day, grapes are crushed in the two horizontal tanks, no more ‘treading’.

Groot Constantia wine tasting tours includes seeing and touching some of the 'ingredients' used in the wine making process.

Groot Constantia wine tasting tours includes seeing and touching some of the ‘ingredients’ used in the wine making process.

Wine Storage Barrels Of French Oak

Quality control is key, as you’d expect and the detail throughout the entire wine making process is fascinating. The grapes are harvested in the early morning due to optimum sugar content which varies during the day. Rose bushes are planted throughout the estate which acts as an early warning system for crop disease and pest control.

We exit the warehouse via one of the huge temperature regulated wine storage rooms containing over 300 barrels of red wine which are completing the final maturing phase before bottling. Temperature control is critical in the room or the wine will be spoiled. The wine storage barrels are specially imported French oak.

Constantia wine farms use rose bushes as early warning system against crop pests and diseases. Note the smoke in the distance from the wildfires.

Constantia wine farms use rose bushes as early warning system against crop pests and diseases. Note the smoke in the distance from the wildfires.

A freshly picked trailer of grapes being unloaded at the processing plant.

A freshly picked trailer of grapes being unloaded at the processing plant.

The bottle cork is imported from Portugal.

The bottle cork is imported from Portugal.

Sharon checking out the oak barrel samples.

Sharon checking out the oak barrel samples.

Over 300 French oak barrels filled with wine in the temperature controlled storage room.

Over 300 French oak barrels filled with wine in the temperature controlled storage room.

Wine Tasting Room

The wine tasting room is next, we each have five wine glasses with generous samples on the table before each of us; two white and three red. Sharon grins, she’s a professional wine taster wannabe.

Sceptical as I have been about wine tasting tours, it has been extremely interesting and I’m really up for giving this a go. I pay attention as Chantelle introduces the characteristics of each of the Groot Constantia wine samples.

I learn to hold the wine up to the light at an angle to check the colours; this apparently can tell you a lot about the age of the wine.

We then learn how to ‘swirl’ the wine – the special wine tasting glasses are bulb shaped to hold in the aroma.

Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc smells good. It's quite technical this wine tasting business!

Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc smells good. It’s quite technical this wine tasting business!

Inside the wine tasting room, Chantelle guides us through the process.

Inside the wine tasting room, Chantelle guides us through the process.

Professional wine taster wannabe.

Professional wine taster wannabe.

All About Wine

Uncultured as I am, when the Groot Constantia wine tasting begins I swig and swallow rather than sip and absorb the taste. Chantelle notices I jumped the gun and tactfully explains how it should be done. This time I take a small sip and let it roll around on my tongue allowing my taste buds to discover the wine.

Chantelle is describing the red wine taste as a smoky, spicy flavour and, you know, for the first time I think I can actually taste the ‘character’ of the wine! I say as much and Sharon rolls her eyes at me, convinced I’m joking around. But I’m dead serious. I wouldn’t say I could join a discussion all about wine, but perhaps now I’d feel confident enough to nod in the right places.

Afterwards there’s an opportunity to purchase beautifully packaged bottles at reception, which we take; they’ll make great wine gifts for some friends we are visiting next week.

Our wine from the gift shop.

Our wine from the gift shop.

Groot Constantia Wine Tasting Times

If you’re visiting Cape Town I thoroughly recommend a visit to Groot Constantia wine estate. The first tour starts at 11am and it lasts the best part of an hour. If you’ve been a wine sceptic like me, keep an open mind, and you might be pleasantly surprised – like me. If you already have an appreciation for fine wine, then this is certain to be a treat. Groot Constantia’s quality wines, red in particular, are rated quite highly including Shiraz, Merlot and their Gouverneurs Reserve.

Groot Constantia Wine and The St Helena Link

The distinguished list of Groot Constantia wine consumers is impressive. As a Saint I’m pleasantly surprised to learn Napoleon Bonaparte, while exiled on St Helena, ordered it by the case-load. The estate information leaflet mentions that as Napoleon lay dying, his last request was for a glass of Constantia wine. I’ll have to check if they know this back home!

Constantia wine is mentioned in Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and Charles Dickens also wrote about it.

The Groot Constantia homestead dates back to the 17th century. It is now part of a museum.

The Groot Constantia homestead dates back to the 17th century. It is now part of a museum.

 

Aside from the cellar and wine tasting tour, the beautiful estate itself is something to see. The centre piece is a Cape Dutch style manor house dating back to the late 17th century, which was extensively restored after fire damage in 1925. It is now part of the South African Cultural History Museum.

The Groot Constantia wine cellar tour costs R50 (South African Rand), (£2.70 or $4.00) per person. It is included on the City Sightseeing bus tour route (Blue Peninsula) which runs from Cape Town. Present your ‘City Sightseeing’ ticket for R5 discount.

#lovecapetown

A note about the Cape Town fires mentioned at the start. The Cape Peninsula wild fires that burned on the hillsides from late February to early March 2015 burned thousands of hectares of vegetation. eNews Channel Africa reported more than a dozen homes were badly damaged and one helicopter pilot involved in fire suppression was killed when forced into a hard landing at Cape Point. Residents in the Cape Peninsula are used to wild fires in the summer periods.

Note: Currency conversion is based on early March 2015 exchange rates.

Groot Constantia wine estate is a beautiful place to visit.

Groot Constantia wine estate is a beautiful place to visit.

By |2018-09-20T01:35:11+00:00March 15th, 2015|Culture, Food and Drink, South Africa, Tourist Attraction|20 Comments

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20 Comments

  1. Helena Bennett March 15, 2015 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    I grinned the whole time reading this one…..i can just see Sharon being star pupil on this one 😆

    • Saints March 15, 2015 at 11:08 pm - Reply

      You called that right Helena 🙂

  2. Wendy March 15, 2015 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Ok…so definatey will have to visit the vineyards now and “swirl” some wine! Great information guys! Enjoy the travels! xx

    • Saints March 15, 2015 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      Wendy, we can “swirl” together on St Helena later in the year – have a good time on your travels too. Cheers 🙂

  3. Barbara March 15, 2015 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    We intend taking Wendy and Geoff to Spiers where David proposed to Mercia; but I think we will do Groot Constantia as well…enjoy the remainder of your time in Cape Town…

    • Saints March 15, 2015 at 5:32 pm - Reply

      I know you guys will have a good time there. Just don’t try to take any wine out via the airport in your hand luggage, they won’t allow liquids and will confiscate wine 🙂

  4. Shirley March 15, 2015 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Very interesting blog . We didn’t have time to visit vineyards. On out trip , next time may be .

    • Saints March 15, 2015 at 1:56 pm - Reply

      I highly recommend it. Very peaceful in the gardens as well, visitors are free to wander around the grounds.

  5. Elaine & Spud March 15, 2015 at 9:13 am - Reply

    I know Sharon was loving this :). Another interesting blog.

    • Saints March 15, 2015 at 11:16 am - Reply

      Thanks Elaine, can you imagine if her and Spud were together on that tour? They would be going around the second time 🙂

  6. Alison March 15, 2015 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Moi aussi je le trouve tres interessant! (Without the accent over the he’s sorry the tablet doesn’t want to do them!) Amusez-vous bien!

    • Saints March 15, 2015 at 11:21 am - Reply

      Merci Alison. Cape Town était incroyable. Vous tous les disparus 🙂

  7. Geardine March 15, 2015 at 8:16 am - Reply

    Loving your updates…bringing back amazing memories :-). Been to The Groot Constantia wine estate. Last year made my own homemade wine, if on your travels do come and taste my wine. You’ll have an amazing blog xx

    • Saints March 15, 2015 at 11:24 am - Reply

      Might have to take you up on that wine tasting offer – now that I know how to do it. Make sure you have the right shaped glass 🙂 Would love nothing more than to meet up for drink and catch up, fear we are too far in the wrong part of the country at the moment. Glad you’re enjoying the blog, Cheers.

  8. Teeny Lucy March 15, 2015 at 6:27 am - Reply

    Following your blog with interest guys….très intéressant!

    • Saints March 15, 2015 at 11:26 am - Reply

      Merci Teeny. Cava? We do think about French class every Wednesday. Hope you guys still having fun 🙂

  9. Diane Webb March 15, 2015 at 6:18 am - Reply

    Great reading guys

  10. Patrick G Henry March 15, 2015 at 5:34 am - Reply

    Very interesting, vineyards is amazing and always an exciting place to visit, lovely pictures.

    • Saints March 15, 2015 at 11:28 am - Reply

      Cheers Borbs, you would have loved the wine tasting but also walking in the grounds of the estate which is immaculate and beautiful. Will have to do it together some day 🙂

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