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

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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.

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