Cellar Audio Guide: From Berry to Barrel to Bottle
1. The Constantia Valley
NARRATOR: You should be standing at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the cellar, in front of a signboard that marks the start if this audio tour.
The tasting room is to your right, behind a glass wall. I’m sure you’re dying to sample Groot Constantia’s wines, but I think you’ll find it worthwhile to spend half an hour with me first. We’ll trace the journey of wine through this cellar, from grape to bottle – and then out of it, to tables across the world. Once you know how much history and tradition goes into every glass, you’ll find sniffing and sipping your drink that much more rewarding.
This is the oldest wine farm in South Africa. It was established over 300 years ago, in 1685, by the first governor of the Cape Colony. He planted vines almost immediately, and the estate’s grapes proved themselves quickly. Over the years, the farm changed hands a number of times, and with each transition, the tradition of winemaking at Groot Constantia grew.
We’ll meet the most celebrated of these owners in a minute, but before we do, take a look at the map of the Constantia Valley on the board in front of you. Can you see the thick lines marking out the boundaries of the estate?
To the west, you’ll see the steep, untameable slopes of the Table Mountain Range. On every other side, there are suburban homes. And yet, in spite of these tight geographical constraints, the seal you find on bottles of Groot Constantia marks them out as estate wines – as wines made exclusively from grapes harvested right here.
Winemakers elsewhere buy in grapes that were grown on other farms. This allows them to make as much wine as they can move through their cellar. But at Groot Constantia, the boundaries of the estate put a strict limit on production. They also give the cellar we’re about to enter its proportions.
The size of this building… the number of fermentation tanks and barrels inside it… the equipment used for bottling… all of them follow on directly from the quantity and quality of the grapes grown in the vineyards outside. And because Groot Constantia can’t do much to increase the quantity of its grapes, the team here focuses on just one thing: the quality of Groot Constantia wines.
With that in mind, let’s get started. Can you see the number one on the sign in front of you? It’s inside of a marker with headphones.
You’ll see other numbered signs at every stop along our walk. They’re your cue to open the VoiceMap app, and to select the location with a matching number and title. Each of these will continue our story, and tell you where to go next.
Walk up the stairs in front of you now. When you get to the top, turn left.
[7 second silence]
Are you at the top of the stairs yet? Remember to turn left, and then make your way over to the signboard on the far wall. Can you see it? It has the number two on it, as well as a map and a picture of a bottle. Go over to it now.
When you get there, open the VoiceMap app and select location two.