You don’t have to drive far to visit some of the oldest wine estates in the country when in Cape Town. The Constantia Valley lies in the midst of the southern suburbs, 20 minutes’ drive from Cape Town’s City Bowl. And it holds everything you’ve come to expect from a wine route – Cape Fold Mountains, vineyards, oak-lined avenues, Cape Dutch manors, excellent food and superior wines.
One of the oldest suburbs of the city, Constantia may be small by comparison with Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, but it supports 11 estates, all of whom produce superlative wines. Any visit to Cape Town is incomplete without a drive through the valley and at least a couple of stops to taste wine. You can also take the Purple Wine Tour on the hop-on-hop-off bus(it stops at three wine estates).
We share 8 of Cape Town’s city wine estates with you…
The oldest vineyard in the southern hemisphere, Groot Constantia has been here since Jan van Riebeeck established a vineyard here, way back in 1685 (Simon van der Stel would later buy a large portion of this wine mountain area (Wijnberg), calling it Groot Constantia; he would later retire here too). Sent to the Cape to establish a replenishment station for passing ships en route to the Far East, van Riebeeck apparently asserted his need for a vineyard by suggesting that wine was the best way to deal with scurvy.
The wine farm offers a cellar tour and chocolate and wine pairings. Two excellent restaurants – Jonkershoek (many of the Cape Estates had these ‘young man houses’ on the estate) and Simon’s, or a picnic under the oaks, are your food options. And the venue is available for weddings.
Steenberg claims it is the Cape’s first farm, established in 1682. Set up against the mountain of stone after which it is named, on Steenberg road in Tokai, the manor house and farm buildings are a national monument. Wine has been cultivated on the farm since 1695, but the vines were extensively replanted when Graham Beck’s Kangra Group bought the estate in 2005.
The estate not only produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the country, but it recently added a 5-Star boutique hotel and a new ultra-modern Bistro-style restaurant known as Bistro Sixteen82. Other features include an 18-hole championship golf course, a residential development and a spa. The wine estate is virtually across the road from the school, Reddam House.
This boutique winery lies tucked into Constantiaberg just below Constantia Nek. One of its major attractions are the views out over the valley, and the wine tasting paired with cheese and charcuterie platters that draw the crowds. The farm was originally called Benydendal, growing vines even in its early years. It was then renamed Glen Alpine and became a well known wine estate in the late 1850s.
The farm lay fallow between the 1960s and 1990s used as forest land and then as an Angus stud farm, before returning to its historic wine farming roots. The first vines of the farm as Constantia Glen were planted in 2000. The vineyard uses only its own grapes to produce wines grown over 30 hectares.
Also a boutique winery, Beau Constantia lies at the top of Constantia Nek overlooking False Bay. It’s a relatively new estate, purchased in 2002 after fires on the mountain virtually destroyed the fynbos and pine forests on the property. The first vineyards went up in 2003. Now with 11.47 hectares under vine, the farm’s Cencily Viognier 2010 won an award for best Viognier at the 2011 Novare Terroir Wine Awards.
A vegetable garden, beautiful outdoor drinking area, and pop-up Sushi Box shop are just a few of the reasons to visit. See their Facebook page for details and special events. They also host weddings.
Constantia Uitsig, as its name suggests, offers a view over a rather unique position in the valley (it was called Constantia View until 1940) where it is situated on the bend of Spaanschemaat River Road. One of several farms that formed part of the original portion of Simon van der Stel’s grant of Groot Constantia, the estate offers award winning wines, three top-notch restaurants, a private cricket oval, a spa and a boutique hotel (16 bedrooms).
The Bike Park at Constantia Uitsig is a world-class pump track that attracts bike enthusiasts, particularly over weekends. The estate has a new purpose-built tasting room on the right as you enter the grounds, and if you manage to visit during grape season, the estate’s hanepoot grapes fly off the wine shop’s shelves. Fifty percent of the estate is owned by a consortium.
Sister farm to Anwilka, in Stellenbosch, Klein Constantia lies in amongst ancient trees on the upper foothills of the Constantiaberg, with views over False Bay. It originated when van der Stel’s estate was sold to the Cloete’s who then further subdivided the land.
The upper portion was to become Klein Constantia. Like its counterpart, Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia has been producing wine since the year dot. Napoloeon Bonaparte is attributed with ordering gallons of the family’s sweet dessert wine, where he was in exile on St Helena. The estate is still famous for its natural sweet wine, Vin de Constance.
Beyond Expectation is this wine estate’s maxim and the farm’s view, from where it lies on the east-facing slopes of Constantiaberg, does much to reinforce the idea of excellence.
The estate restaurant’s glass-walled terrace is geared specifically at sharing the spectacular with those who dine, and the food gets more than a ‘wow’ from diners (some have been heard to say this is the finest dining experience in the country). You can also order a picnic to go. Start your visit with a wine tasting and then book ahead for a meal.
One of the new generation of winemakers producing smaller quantities of wine that is no less exceptional than their historic counterparts in the valley, Eagle’s Nest, as its name suggests, lies high on the slopes of the Constantia mountains. It also comes with its own history, having served, way back in 1836, as a refreshment station between Wynberg and Hout Bay.
The wine tasting is excellent, paired with charcuterie or cheese platters, and relaxed enough to allow the dogs and children to tag along. Did we mention the views?