A slice of Cape history
The news that one of the Cape’s top wine estates has come onto the market is bound to garner a great deal of interest. Lea Jacobs reports
SIMON van der Stel may well have produced some of the first wines in Constantia in the Western Cape, but it wasn’t until Johannes Colyn, his descendants of De Hoop op Constantia and Hendrik Cloete, who built the Groot Constantia homestead, started making wine, that the international community sat up and started to take notice of the fact that superb wines were being produced in the fairest Cape.
Initially, the wines produced were made from muscadel grapes and were naturally sweet. It is a wide-held belief that these first vines planted by Van der Stel at Groot Constantia and the neighbouring De Hoop op Constantia were imported from France.
The two farms produced around 14,000 litres of red muscadel wine which was sold as Red Constantia and 7,000 litres of white muscadel, which was sold as White Constantia. The wines were of an extremely high quality and cost 10 times the price of other wines that were being produced in the Cape at the time, and were not available on the open market.
Farms in and around Constantia have been producing superior wines ever since. The climate and location plays an enormous role in the area’s grape-growing success. The rich granitic soil, Mediterranean climate, as well as the sea air from both the Indian and Atlantic oceans ensured that highquality wines were produced from the start. The absence of major vine diseases and the sunny summer weather ensured that the grapes could be left on the vine until they were almost raisins. Once turned into wine, this was kept in cellars until delicate, full- bodied flavours were obtained.
Constantia Uitsig, which was known as Constantia View until 1940, housed the Lategan family for five generations. The homestead that was originally a portion of the farm Groot Constantia, was built by William Lategan in 1894, when he married Antoinette Bredell. Purchased by the current owners in 1988, the farm has been restored to its former glory and now produces award-winning wines. The farm has recently come onto the market and carries a price tag of R175m. “This is a rare opportunity to acquire a soughtafter working wine estate with award-winning hospitality and restaurant facilities and the potential to further develop this,” say Seeff Constantia agents, Marie Durr and Jack Bensch.
Nestled against the leeward slopes of Table Mountain, Constantia Uitsig is situated in one of the most scenic locations in the heart of the Constantia Wine Valley. The estate is around 60ha in extent with 33ha under vines. Grape varieties include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Hanepoot table grapes. It boasts award-winning wines, three award-winning restaurants, banqueting and event facilities, a wine shop, a hotel with 16 luxuriously furnished cottages with private access to an outdoor swimming pool, guest lounge and a spa with six multi-purpose treatment rooms. There is also a worldrenowned private cricket oval and stabling facilities for 30 horses. The main restaurant is located in the original Cape Dutch manor house. The old slave bell is also still on the estate. The beautiful gardens include stunning water features and old oak trees. Additional facilities include labourers’ cottages and offices.
“Constantia Uitsig is a landmark destination on the Cape’s wine tourism route and is popular with local and international visitors, not only for its wine tasting and gourmet offerings, but as a holiday, wedding and event venue,” say the agents. “According to Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, wine tourism is one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative sectors of the global tourism market and in 2009 contributed an estimated R4.3bn to SA’s tourism revenue.
“The first bottled wines on the estate was produced in 1993 and since then, wine production has increased steadily,” they say.
Today, Constantia Uitsig wines enjoy a 4-star plus rating from the Platter’s Wine Guide, the premier guide to South African wines. The estate produces around 140 tons of grapes annually of which around 30 tons is sold to third parties. The estate still utilises the production facilities of the neighbouring Steenberg wine farm, but offers immense potential to develop its own winery.
Left: The historic manor house at Constantia Uitsig. Below: The restaurant at Constantia Uitsig and, far left, the view from the restaurant.