The year of Groot Constantia’s 320th anniversary

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This year, the year of Groot Constantia’s 320th anniversary, the current team certainly continued the Estate’s reputation as a place where hospitality and social grace are still as important as it was all those centuries ago.

On 19 October we held a function to showcase the Estate’s wonderful new maturation cellar. This venue serves two purposes. Firstly, the hundreds of barrels in a new spacious location give our cellarmaster greater control over the various wines aging in a variety of oak barrels. Secondly, this venue makes the winery an even greater tourist attraction than before – what more lasting and impressionable image of a working cellar than rows of oak barrels in an atmospheric venue! That is why the function to introduce the new maturation cellar was held mainly for tour operators who now have an added reason to bring local and international visitors to Groot Constantia.

The party had barely finished at the new maturation cellar when 15 of the country’s top wine writers visited the Manor House for the launch of the Grand Constance, Groot Contantia’s sweet wine.

In the year of its 320th anniversary, the Groot Constantia Estate has reintroduced a modern version of the natural sweet wine that made Groot Constantia world-famous some 200 year’s ago. The wine, named after the original Grand Constance, is a blend of red and white Muscat de Frontignan grapes picked during the latest stages of ripeness, barrel-fermented and then matured in old French oak barrels for 18 months.

According to Boela Gerber, cellarmaster at Groot Constantia, the Estate’s original natural sweet wines, also made from red and white Muscat de Frontignan, were bottled under the name Grand Constance. “With our strategy of new plantings and Groot Constantia’s broadening of its wine portfolio it was decided to re-introduce the wine that made the Estate world-famous all those years ago,” says Gerber. “Not only does this wine bring our portfolio closer to the Groot Constantia heritage, but market research has shown that there is an increased local and international demand for South African natural sweet wines.

‘And seeing that Groot Constantia is where the South African wine industry was born with the making of these wines, it is appropriate that we continue the work of the founding fathers.

“To be able to launch these wines in the year of our 320th anniversary, adds that special touch, something the Grand Constance can bring to any occasion.”

The Grand Constance 2003 is made from red and white Muscat de Frontignan grapes that, according to Gerber, gain and extra dimension in Groot Constantia’s Mediterranean type climate with it cooling breezes from the Atlantic Ocean and average rainfall of 1100mm per annum.

The rapturous reception this wine received from the wine media has extended to the trade and the market, where this delicious fruity gem seems to be the talk of the town.

The wine is sold in specially packaged 375ml bottles at a suggested retail price of R150. At the rate it is selling, we may have to put out the “While Stocks Last Sign”!

And just when the Groot Constantia team thought they could put away their party shoes, it was time to hold our official 320th anniversary function on 16 November.

The function was attended by dignitaries from national and local government, business people, representatives from the media and wine industry VIP’s. The evening’s address was made by Themba Wakashe, acting deputy general in the department of arts and culture.

Mr Wakashe paid tribute to all parties that had allowed the Estate to remain a symbol of culture and history, especially to the current board and management team.

A lover of Groot Constantia wines and an admirer of the Estate, Mr Wakashe expressed a wish: “My wish is that this Estate, known for its superb wines of the past three centuries, will in preparation for its 325th anniversary produce even more magnificent wines of quality enjoyed and revered by wine lovers around the world. Let us not forget that because of its history and heritage Groot Constantia should easily be able to become known within the next decade as one of the world’s foremost tourist destinations and thus share in the South African wine tourism industry which is valued at billions of rand per annum.

“The challenge facing the Board, senior management and indeed the wine farming industry as a whole over the next five years, will indeed be active participation in transformation of the wine industry. This includes incorporating in a meaningful way the previously disadvantaged at both capacity building and black economic empowerment levels. I trust the already transformed Board of the Groot Constantia Trust will commit themselves to have addressed by the end of 2010 this critical matter in a most responsible manner. I believe, Chairman van Niekerk and CEO Naudé, that you have the capacity in your ranks to make this happen. And by fulfilling this challenge we as partners with Land Affairs and private business will leave an honourable legacy of which future generations can rightly be proud of.”

It was an honour to hear Mr Wakashe express the ideals and wishes we at Groot Constantia hold so dear.

One of the transformation projects we are most proud of, is Groot Constantia’s involvement in cultural education to schoolchildren from previously disadvantaged communities. With the help of teacher Myrtle Edwards, some 335 children were given the opportunity of visiting the Estate between 6 June and 3 November this year, with Groot Constantia paying for the transport costs incurred of bringing the learners to us.

This tangible exposure the Estate assists in giving these children brings a tear to our eyes when we witness the joy and fascination with which these youngsters take-in the Groot Constantia Experience.

After a visit, Mr LJ Fisher, principal of Dietrich Moravian Primary School, wrote the following in a thank you letter: “Our learners are mainly children of farm labourers or unemployed parents. This makes it very difficult for us to organise excursions for our learners as transport costs are exorbitant and learners are not able to contribute to these costs. This experience was not only enjoyable, but also an experience that will long be remembered by all of them. The learners cannot speak enough of their educational yet enjoyable experience.”

Feedback like this only encourages us to do more.

Spring at Groot Constantia

Spring saw Groot Constantia join the rest of the local wine world at the WineX wines shows in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Groot Constantia was part of the exciting new image of the entire Constantia Wine Valley, which really had tongues wagging and people flocking to our tasting stands.

With snappy and stylish new signage linking all the Valley’s producer for the greater good of brand Constantia, we really put our best foot forward. Our wine quality is well-known, serving this wine under a united front based on a stylish image, can only add to the current success we are enjoying and reaffirm the fact that wine lovers enjoy Constantia at their peril!

Great news is that the popular Jonkershuis Restaurant on the Estate has been taken over by two seasoned restaurateurs – Tammy Botbyl and Chris Coetzee.

The new Jonkershuis Restaurant will be opening on 15 December and the food menu will be influenced by Cape Malay cuisine as well as salads, game, seafood and sandwiches.

Picnics will be catered for and large parties can also be accommodated. And the new Deli section is bound to be a hit – especially among hungry Groot Constantia staffers at lunchtime.

We are proud to announce the following long service awards to loyal and hardworking Groot Constantia staff:

  • Jonathan Ravel (farm worker, tractor driver) – 10 years service
  • George Jacobs (gardener) – 15 years service
  • Nellie Cloete (crèche child carer) – 20 years servic
  • Ivan Claassen (farm worker) – 15 years service

We are also getting spruced up for the tourist season. The buildings are being white washed and part of the road has been re-done with the brick paving being made wider. And with the season on hand, we have 21 tour guides operating on the Estate!

On the wine front, visitors to the tasting room will be the only people able to purchase a bottle of the “Lookout Sauvignon Blanc 2005” (wooded) Boela Gerber made this year. Only 574 bottles are up for sale – at the Estate only. And this lovely wine, with the slightest kiss of French oak, is worth the trip alone!

The Groot Constantia Running Club

The Groot Constantia Running Club continues to show opponents a clean set of heels. This year was the sixth year in a row in which they beat the neighbouring farms!

Top four places all went to Groot Constantia runners:

  • 1st Kosie Wilson
  • 2nd Willy Jansen
  • 3rd Gavin Jacobs
  • 4th Jan Jacobs

The Estate

Over the season the Estate is open seven days a week from 09h00 to 18h00. We will only be closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Groot Constantia again achieved another award for the Gouverneurs Chardonnay 2004 at the Santé Classic Wine Trophy 2005, which is now in its eighth year and the judging was mainly done by the French Sommeliers, who had flown out from Europe. Only five gold medals were awarded for the white wines. It’s policy is to maintain extremely high standards in regards to winners. The Gouverneurs range has consistently received a gold medal.

The new Consul-General from Holland in Cape Town visited Groot Constantia and one of his hobbies is history. He began with a visit to the Groot Constantia Museum and was impressed with the amount of attention that slavery received.