* This article originally appeared here on Food24
There’s only one city in the world that can lay claim to having the Southern Hemisphere’s oldest wine route on her doorstep. With her proud vinicultural beginnings dating back to 1685, it’s Cape Town of course. Barely 20 minutes drive and you’d have left the cityscape and welcomed into the leafy vineyards of Constantia. The official wine route has ten farms, each with distinct offerings and world-class wines. Here’s a little taster of three of the farms.
1. Klein Constantia
Part of the original 1685 farm, Klein Constantia has a long and proud heritage. Meeting Matthew Day, the winemaker, youmay rather innocently wonder if he’s old enough to hold such an esteemed position. In conversation he’s quick to add, that at the end of 2011 the previous winemaker left, and the new owners offered him the challenge of proving himself as winemaker: “I was 25 years old and looked like I was 16 so I was very quickly dubbed one of the youngest winemakers in the Cape.”I’d like to think it’s a daily glass of Sauvignon Blanc that gives him his youthful appearance.
Klein Constantia is most well-known for its Vin De Constance – the first revisit of the original sweet wines that made Constantia famous from the 1700s, and had royalty, poets and noblemen ordering by the case-full. Recent vintages have won some of the top accolades around the world. Their Chardonnay-straight MCC is a crowd pleaser, and the Metisis an elegant match of South African cool climate terroir and French methodology.
The newest addition to the farm and eating scene in Constantia, is the Bistro @ Klein Constantia. The focus is on country
styled bistro-dining, and there are two lunch seatings daily from Tuesday to Sunday: book yourself a spot online here. Along with the addition of the Bistro, the tasting room has had a chic facelift so be sure to enjoy a few tasters in their inspiring new space.
* Note – for those who like to collect a little something special for their collection, the farm has just released Cuvée Anabel Rosé – a magnum inspired by one of the owner’s daughters – who in fact had a hand in designing the beautiful box and bottle label. With a delicate salmon colour, strawberry and citrus notes and a touch of a surprise varietal that adds a subtle but appealing floral nose. There is limited stock available – you can get yours for R595 from the tasting room and Bistro while they last. For a wine lover, this makes a very special limited edition gift (PS – you do know Mother’s Day is just around the corner right? Hint, hint…)
Just next door, and also part of Governor Simon van der Stel’s original Constantia farm, you’ll find Buitenverwachting. A friend recently commented that its name, Dutch for ‘beyond expectations,’ couldn’t be more perfect. Lines of ancient oaks welcome you to the property and soon give way to the famed vineyards –thankfully still standing, as the 2015 fire was a very real threat. Winemaker Brad Paton told me “The worst experience I have ever had in 23 years of being in winemaking, was during the 2015 Harvest (March) when we had to close down the cellar and the farm, to fight fires to protect our vineyards, houses and farm buildings!”
When tasting the estate’s wines make sure to try include the 3rd Time Lucky limited release. It’s a 100 % Viognier that’s spent 10 months on oak, with a sensationally floral nose and a long finish –and be sure to ask about the story behind the name. Equally, you won’t go wrong with the Husseys Vlei –an elegant Sauvignon Blanc, characteristic of the ‘savvies’ that have helped make the valley famous.
Buitenverwachting also offers some additional tasting options that make a visit to the farm a must-do. The Coffee Bloc boasts artisan coffees roasted on site, and are well paired with their selection of cakes and freshly baked scones. For more formal dining, the Buitenverwachting Restaurant will not disappoint with a recently updated look and classy country cuisine.
3. Constantia Glen
Despite the centuries of history, there are some new kids on the block who have very quickly proved their worth in wine. Constantia Glen is one of these farms, and has is now a well-respected name in the industry. You’ll be spellbound by the sweeping views of the Valley and Table Mountain from the tasting room and garden. Making wine in Constantia is not always an easy task. One of the challenges is the topography: sitting up to 45 degrees, some of the slopes are notoriously difficult to farm. Whilst the cool ocean breeze adds a distinct element, the weather is never predictable with draught and fire both recent challenges.
Speaking of one of the more remote blocks, Winemaker Justin Van Wyk reminded me that this is all part of producing such premium wines: “These vineyards struggle to a large extent in these extreme conditions, and it lends to very low yields, but the resulting grapes have amazing freshness and concentration of flavour.”
They produce four wines: a Sauvignon blanc, and three blends. The flagship Constantia FIVE, is a Bordeaux blend that boasts an unbelievably complex finish. Buy the latest vintage and cellar it for a couple of years –upon opening it’ll effortless complete with any of its French counterparts. Don’t forget that they’re open for tasting till 8pmThursday –Sunday: perfect for summer sundowners.
Where to Stay
No Constantia stay would be replete without a visit to the prestigious Cellars-Hoenhort. The first of my two accommodation choices for the luxury getaway, The Cellars-Hoenhort is a grand dame of a property, with a history as long as the farms that surround it. My closest comparison was some of the grand hotels I’d visited along the scenic Lake Como, Italy. Acres of manicured gardens welcome you to their tranquil surrounds, suggesting you find a place of solace to enjoy a great book…or a glass of wine. Oversized rooms, double-volume ceilings, and gracious views welcome you to this world-class heritage hotel.
Dining at The Conservatory, one of the in-house restaurants, guests have several choices from their seasonal menu. This is of course accompanied by a decent selection of Constantia wines. The grilled beef ribeye, with bone marrow and forest mushrooms complemented with the Buitenverwachting’s Meifort blend, was a winner. Naturally, an evening in such luxurious surroundings ended with their melting dark chocolate fondant and white chocolate ice-cream.