Groot Constantia, Constantia Valley

The heritage of Groot Constantia is embodied in it's wine quality, list of clientele, building's architecture, friendly employees, history of slaves and their traditions! All of these added to the succesfull wine making methods over the last 3 centuries! Regardless of development on the farming land , nearby Groot Constantia has stood the test of time. Truly a conservation miracle, not found to often!
 
In 1679, Simon van der Stel requested land, from the Dutch East India Company as a reward for loyal service! He occasionally sent out scouts too collect soil samples. In 1685 he chose 763h for its wine growing potential and magnificent situation just behind Table Mountian. He named his farm, 'Groot Constantia', a name derived from Latin and means constancy and steadfastness. 
Over the years the wine produced by this farm caught the attention of very influential people across the world, due to its excellent quality! It is recorded that recorded that 1 year, King Louis of France ordered the entire vintage from the year! Also, a glass of Groot Constantia wine was one of Napoleon's last requests before he died in exile on St. Helena island! The British Royal Family and Fredrick the Great of Prussia, have all enjoyed a glass or two of this wine!  In 2004 a portion of a Groot Constantia bottle, was found on the beach at Lewes Delaware, USA. It originally came from the shipwreck of 'The Severn', which was stranded there in 1776. Another bottle was found off the coast of Stockholm, at the bottom of the ocean, in the late 1940's!
 
Groot Constantia has won numerous Gold maedals over the last ten years! Most have been international, Wine Competitions.
There are two infamous restaurant's on site: Jonkershuis and Simon's Restaurant, as well as a Museums: Manor House and Cloete Cellar and these are both decorated with famous South African Artists, work!

The land was sub-divided after his death in 1712, and this portion was acquired in 1885 by the Colonial Government as an experimental wine farm. It has remained a working wine estate through to the present day. The Cape Dutch manor house, known as Groot Constantia, was originally built by Simon van der Stel in 1692, and after its destruction in a fire on 19 December 1925, it was restored by architect FK Kendall in 1926-27. A second Cape Dutch manor house on the property, known as Hoop op Constantia, is a U-plan house with three gables, and was formerly known as Klein Constantia. It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on17 April 1936.

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Last updated : 20-Apr-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 14-Jul-2011