The Wine District of Constantia in the Cape Peninsula

Monday, 19 November, 2012
Joseph Perez
With its dramatic coastline and its abundant wildlife, South Africa makes for a great holiday destination. But there is something else this country is known for apart from its safari tours and watersports activities.
South African wines have achieved international prestige, and the country is among the world's top 10 producers. If you are planning a visit to South Africa, including a tour to some of the country's best vineyards could well be the highlight of your trip.

Constantia wines were the first South African wines to be known internationally, as they were once the favourites of European royalty. Constantia wines take their name from the estate in which they were first produced towards the end of the 18th century. Originally, these wines were produced using a blend of Muscat, Frontignac, Pontac, and Chenin Blanc grapes. The result was a non-fortified, full bodied dessert wine whose recipe has been perfected over the centuries.

Nowadays, the Constantia wine valley makes for an interesting day trip from Cape Town. There are currently nine vineyards that offer tours and wine tastings against the backdrop of the spectacular Table Mountain. What follows are some suggestions for a possible route through the Constantia Valley vineyards.

The first winery that the visitor will encounter after leaving Cape Town is Constantia Glen, which uses varieties of grapes like Savignon Blanc, Cabernet, and Merlot to produce its flagship Constantia Glen Five. Next is Eagles' Nest, a small operation that makes use of Shiraz and Viognier varieties to produce aromatic and smooth wines. Up the road is the High Constantia Winery, which has been producing exceptional wines since 1813. Today, this winery produces a wide range of sparkling, reds, whites, and rosés, not to mention its superb vintage bottles, like the High Constantia Sebastiaan 2006 or the Silverhust Sauvignon Blanc 2010.

Next is Groot Constantia, the oldest vineyard in the valley. The Groot's cellar tours and wine tastings are mandatory, but visitors should not miss the on-site museum and the chance to dine at the vineyard's acclaimed restaurants. Groot's wines feature Malbec, Pinot, Touriga, and Chardonnay grapes, among others, to achieve an impressive variation of flavours, colours, and scents.

Klein Constantia also has a long wine-making tradition. If you wish to try something different, go for the Klein Riesling 2000 or the legendary Vin du Constance 1993. The Buitenverwachting Wine Farm is a relatively young venture, but as you taste its Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 you will agree that they have mastered the secret of fine wine-making to perfection.

Further west is Constantia Uitsig, which produces an incredibly large variety of Semillon, Muscat, Chardonnay, Bordeaux, and Sauvignon Blanc wines, and which also is home to fine accommodation, a spa, and a restaurant on its premises. Last but not least is Steenberg, which offers an interesting combination of bicycle routes and wine tastings. It would be a pity to fly from Cape Town back home without some of Steenberg's best rated wines: the Shiraz 2001 and the Semillon 2003, which are packed with richness and elegance.

For all it has to offer, the Cape Peninsula is a compulsory destination for wine lovers and those who appreciate history, nature, and tradition.