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A view of the vineyards above Groot Contstantia. The brown
trees at the back of the vineyard were burned in the
fires that swept the winelands at the beginning of 2000.

Short visit - Constantia

If you only have a very short time then Constantia offers famous and historic buildings, vineyards and a winery with an interesting wine tour.

Constantia was the first wine estate in South Africa. It was planted by Governor Simon van der Stel and has been a working wine farm since 1685. Its most famous product was a sweet wine that unusually didn't adopt a European name but was known throughout the world as Constantia. In its day it was the most expensive wine in the world, easily beating Ch Yquem and Tokay.

The Constantia estate was split up over the years into Groot (great) and Klein (small) Constantia and they make a pleasant visit being a few minutes from Cape Town city centre. Groot Constantia is a national historic site with original Dutch Cape buildings used to house collections of wine memorabilia and houses restored with furniture and fittings of the time. There are restaurants and the locals use the gardens as a park. There are good views from the vineyards, and the sea can be seen in the distance.

But it is also a working winery, and guided tours take place every hour on the hour. The tour takes you past old huge wooden casks and on a walkway over modern stainless steel tanks, ending in a tasting room where after a short video film you get to taste 6 wines. Allow one hour for the tour, which I highly recommend. If you don't have time you can taste the wines for a nominal charge in the tasting room which is a separate building at the entrance to the vineyard. Here you can buy souvenirs and wines.

Just around the corner, a short drive, is Klein Constantia. A modern New World feel is apparent when you pull up outside the winery. There is no tour, but you can step through the door next to the tasting counter to stand on a high walkway overlooking fermentation tanks and maturation barrels. You are welcome to taste wines and here they sell the famous Vin de Constance, perhaps South Africa's only cult wine. Klein Constantia's recreated the historic Constantia wine by cloning the original vines and making this sweet unbotryised wine.

Both wineries can be visited in a half-day from Cape Town.

Location - between the M3 motorway and M63 at Constantia. The wineries are signposted


Groot Constantia Estate
Open 09.00 - 17.30 daily
Tours on the hour 10.00-16.00 (at 11.00 & 15.00 winter)

Klein Constantia
Open 09.30-17.00 (09.00-13.00 Saturday)