• LOCATION 4 | Museum Audio Guide: Home to South African Wine

    Dining Hall: The Business of Entertaining

    Dining Hall: The Business of Entertaining  on Cape Town audio tour Museum Audio Guide: Home to South African Wine

    Narrator: Look at the floor. Can you see a stonework pentagon? If there’s space, go over and stand inside it.

    This pentagon is the same shape as the Dutch fort in the city centre that Capetonians call the Castle.

    Now face back towards the entrance, and then look right, at the painting of a tall ship.

    She’s a Dutch East Indiaman called Africa, and she’s arriving at Cape Town. Lookouts at the Castle are watching her approach, and the news of this large company ship coming in for replenishment is spreading fast.

    Now imagine disembarking from a ship like this and being rowed to shore. Imagine climbing onto a carriage to come to Groot Constantia after a day or two in Cape Town. Imagine arriving at its gate, and being surprised by the grand symmetry of this house as it unfolds below you, after a long bumpy ride. Imagine being welcomed inside with extravagant hospitality and finding a long dining table here, already groaning with food.

    Imagine being poured a glass of wine now, at the end of this dramatic journey. How does it taste? How well does it quench your thirst?

    Welcome to the Cloete’s salesroom, where one family mastered word of mouth marketing long before it had a name.

    We’re not sure what the Cloete’s wine tasted like anymore. It must have been excellent, but its story was even better. It convinced Napoleon, who received 30 bottles a month, and King Louis Philippe of France, who bought the estate’s entire vintage in 1833. Jane Austen was sold on it too, and recommended Constantia wine as a cure for a broken heart. Baudelaire compared it to his lover’s lips.

    Thys: During the Cloete period, there was one big, long table [here]…and…the Cloetes entertained people from the morning until the afternoon, every day…The Cloetes were also very up to date with table decorating and followed the newest ideas from Paris.

    Narrator: That’s Thys. He says that entertaining visitors seven days a week created a lot of work for the next room on our tour, the kitchen.

    Thys: The kitchen would have been busy , very busy…and I think the women of the house supervised the kitchen slaves…But these people were trained, they were professional, they knew what they were doing, and they supplied the spread in the dining hall.

    Narrator: Let’s go into to the kitchen now. It’s at the back of the house, which means that if you’re still facing the painting of the ship, you’ll need to turn around.

    Now, look to your left. You’ll see a cabinet displaying a collection of plates and to its right, a doorway leading into a small corridor. Follow that and you’ll find yourself in the Manor House’s engine room.

    Play track five when you get there.

Museum Audio Guide: Home to South African Wine