Raise a glass to 363 years of winemaking in SA

Groot Constantia is considered the historical birthplace of the South African wine industry.

Groot Constantia is celebrating 363 years of South African wine heritage this year with its annual commemorative event, including the blessing of the harvest.

South Africa is the only country in the world that can accurately pinpoint the date of origin of our wine industry, according to Groot Constantia CEO Jean Naudé.

This is thanks to Jan van Riebeeck’s diary entry on 2 February 1659 which read: “Today, praise be to God, wine was made for the first time from Cape grapes”.

Groot Constantia was established in 1685 by the then governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, and is considered the historical birthplace of the South African wine industry.

The blessing of the 2022 harvest will take place in Groot Constantia vineyards by Reverend Desmond Meyer of the Uniting Reformed Church Koelenhof.

Groot Constantia is one of Cape Town top tourist attractions.

The City of Cape Town announced that the festive season had seen a spike in tourism. Cape Town International Airport reported a recovery of 66% for domestic arrivals from last year and 29% for international. In the last two weeks of December, the average number of daily passengers increased to 20 339 with 184 flight movements per day.

Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy said a survey of its members found 57% indicated that their December 2021 performance was better than December 2020, with 64% reporting an increase in domestic visitors, 18% reporting an increase in visitors from Great Britain, 25% from America and 25% from Germany.

The tourism upswing in December contributed R800 million towards the City of Cape Town’s economy, said Mr Duminy.

Mr Naudé said that while the tourism outlook had improved at Groot Constantia, it was still very far from pre-Covid levels.

Groot Constantia wine floor manager Gur Milandou said that, traditionally, 70% of visitors to the estate came from overseas and they came throughout the year.

“The estate is a world-class destination because of its history and being the first wine producing estate in the southern hemisphere and for being a national treasure,” said Mr Milandou.

“Pre-Covid the road through the estate would be lined with buses.”

Most of their wine purchases had gone to Chinese visitors seeking valuable wines such as Napoleon’s favourite wine, “Grand Constance”, the French translation for Groot Constantia, he said.

According to Mr Milandou, 60% of the estate’s wines are exported, with Germany being the biggest and generally ordering red. But it is the white wines that are recognised in international wine competitions. The 2013 chardonnay was named the best in the world in the Chardonnay du Monde competition and the 2019 sauvignon took the title at the 2020 International Wine Challenge (IWC) – one of the most prestigious competitions in the world.

Groot Constantia visitors from Limpopo, Gerda and Johan du Plessis.
Wine floor manager Gur Milandou, left, and wine consultant Glyne Chidemo, with a bottle of Napoleon’s favourite Groot Constantia wine.