Vineyard Audio Guide: Deep Roots and Trade Routes
NARRATOR: Hello, and welcome to this walk through the vineyards here at Groot Constantia. You should be standing outside the entrance to the cellar.
I’m going to lead you on a loop through the estate, and together we’ll explore some of the reasons why it is this location that makes Groot Constantia special. We’ll stop in at a historic bath that most visitors never see, and pass by a copse of old, indigenous trees. But our story on this walk is mostly about grapes both white and red, from shoot to flower and berry to raisin.
You can’t see it right now, but there’s a mountain behind the cellar. It’s one part of Table Mountain National Park. On every other side of the estate, you’ll find the busy commuter suburbs of Cape Town.
Balancing the needs of this thriving farm with the natural and urban environments around it is the job of Jean Naude, Groot Constantia’s CEO.
JEAN: Hi I'm Jean Naude, Groot Constantia's CEO. Welcome to this tour of our wonderful estate. If you look at where we’re situated, we’re completely surrounded by the residential areas of Cape Town. And I think we’re the farm with the most neighbours. These neighbours take ownership of the farm. They feel it’s part of their garden.
N: You’ll hear from Jean again soon. For now, let's get going!
Turn your back to the cellar, then walk along the path and down the steps ahead of you.
VoiceMap uses your phone's GPS to play audio automatically, in exactly the right place. Periods of silence are normal, and if you go off course, we'll tell you. To get yourself back on track, take a look at the map on your screen. But for now, put your phone away and enjoy the breath-taking views. You'll hear from me again in a moment.
Towards The Old Farm Buildings
NARRATOR: Is the duck pond in front of you? Great! You're getting the hang of this.
Turn left now, at the bottom of the stairs. You’ll hear from me again in a moment.
Around The Manor House
NARRATOR: The building beside you is the old Manor House. Turn right here, and walk around it.
NARRATOR: Stop here for a moment in front of the Manor House, while I tell you about it.
Simon van der Stel could probably have made his home just about anywhere in the Cape. He was the first governor appointed by the Dutch after all, and maybe the only thing you need to know about Groot Constantia is that of the many places available to him, Van der Stel chose to build right here.
That was more than 330 years ago now and the manor house was altered and added to over the years. For Jean, preserving Van der Stel’s legacy is a part of managing Groot Constantia.
JEAN: He started this farm, and I take pride in taking what he started, to take that further.
N: The Manor House is part of the Iziko Museums of South Africa. It has a collection of furniture, paintings, textiles, and other household items that help you imagine what life was like for Groot Constantia’s residents hundreds of years ago.
If you would like to go inside, the museum is open every day between 10am and 5pm. For an audio tour of the house, download the Museum Audio Guide.
Now, facing the manor house, turn to your left.
There’s a gateway in the wall just ahead. Can you see it? Good. Go through the gateway. You'll hear from me again at the bottom of the stairs on the left.
Muscat de Frontignan
NARRATOR: Stop here for a moment.
The vineyard’s of Groot Constantia are some of the oldest in South Africa, and the blocks before you are planted with vines from one of the oldest cultivars used for wine-making: Muscat.
This particular member of the Muscat family is Muscat de Frontignan.
MUSCAT: Ah, good day to you! I am Monsieur Muscat de Frontignan, but please call me Muscat. My family has been here on Groot Constantia for generations.
We De Frontignans are a rare breed. We have red and white grapes, you see.
We’re a sweet bunch, and while I hate to boast, I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t say that the farm relies on us to create its most accomplished wine.
NARRATOR: Please excuse the interruption Monsieur, but there’s a lot of farm to see. It’s time we started walking again. Give me a moment to give some directions, okay?
MUSCAT: Mais, oui! Bien sur!
NARRATOR: Keep this block of Muscat on your left, and walk downhill, along the dirt track. It veers off to the right and then winds back to the left. Just keep going downhill.
Monsieur de Frontignan, please continue. I think you were telling us about the estate’s most accomplished wine…
MUSCAT: Indeed, that I was. My family is the very essence of Grand Constance. It’s a dessert wine that is…well, you might say that Grand Constance is fairly well known.
Name dropping is distasteful, I know, but I take such pride in my ancestry… Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte ordered Grand Constance by the case? One case a month, every month, until he died in exile on St Helena. It must have made his life there more...congenial.
But his order was small compared to King Louis Philippe – of France, of course. His emissaries started arriving in 1833, and one year they bought the estate’s entire vintage!
This made Grand Constance ever so fashionable and it wasn’t long before Frederick the Great, King George IV, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were all toasting their successes with Grand Constance – with wine made from de Frontignan grapes grown right here. The poet Charles Baudelaire even compared Grand Constance to his lover’s lips.
Muscat de Frontignan II
NARRATOR: Turn left here.
The trade in Grand Constance went beyond Europe too. A broken bottle was recently found on a beach in Delaware, on the North-East coast of the USA. It had a glass seal on it, inscribed with the words, "Constantia Wyn". This seal was a trademark of sorts for the vintage produced here in the eighteen and nineteen hundreds.
Carry on straight, staying on this dirt track.
PINOTAGE: Howzit! Hello! I’m over here, on your left. Yup, that’s right. The grapevines.
There you go. Pleased to meet you. My name's Pinotage.
Yup, just Pinotage. Were you expecting another “Monsieur Muscat de Frontignan“? Grapes aren’t all so pretentious you know.
I bet you Muscat mentioned his “illustrious” ancestors. He did, didn’t he? It’s the same story every time. And then he said he doesn’t like to name drop, right before he dropped a bunch of names? Ja, I thought so.
It looks like you’re having a lekker walk here. Know where you’re going?
NARRATOR: They’re going straight, between your block and the gully on the right.
PINOTAGE: Cool cool.
That Muscat thinks he’s the sweetest fruit, hey, but I think it’s more important to have roots, you know? I'm a true local – a cultivar born and bred here in South Africa!
I was born in 1925, from the happy marriage of Pino Noir and Hermitage vines. Pino Noir and Hermi-tage: yup, that’s me – Pinotage.
By the standards of these geriatrics, I’m a youngster. I mean, Muscat reckons he’s been around since the ancient Egyptians. Makes sense. When somebody decides that it’s a good idea to mummify their cat, they’ve probably had too much wine.
I’m the new kid on the block: a "new world" variety, some say, while looking straight down their nose. But things are changing. I’ve won all sorts of awards, and I’m getting some overdue respect for my easy-going charm.
FLO: Pinotage is probably one of the easiest grape varietials that I've ever farmed with. It’s a very very forgiving, South African varietal.
NARRATOR: That’s Floricius Beukes.
FLO: Hello, my name is Floricius. I'm the viticulturist with Groot Constantia.
The viticulturist is responsible for the vineyards, the soil, the base where the plant is standing [in]. Pinotage from Groot Constantia is different, because it's a cool climate pinotage. Pinotage normally grows in warmer regions.
NARRATOR: What makes it so different?
FLO: It's got a lot of secondary fruit, almost like a mixture between red fruit and pepper and spice…
NARRATOR: …and all things nice. That’s why pinotage has a lot of real estate here at Groot Constantia.
PINOTAGE: Somebody has to keep these old toppies on their toes.
NARRATOR: Carry on going straight.
Torega Nacional & Cab Franc
NARRATOR: There’s a small dam just ahead. Carry on walking until you reach it, between the vines, then stop there for a moment.
Torega Nacional & Cab Franc II
NARRATOR: I’d like to introduce you to...
TOREGA NACIONAL: (interrupts) Ola! Como vai? Oh, visitors!
N: Yes, hello Torega.
That’s him by the way, to your right and left
I’d also like to introduce you to...
T: (interrupts again) I am the famous Torega Nacional! You've heard of me, yes? Of course!
N: I’d like to introduce you to...
CAB FRANC: What is it now? Oh, hello! Torega, you didn't say we were expecting guests!
TN: (interrupts again) This is my neighbour Cabernet Franc. She’s in that block to the left of the dam.
[whispering] Cab Franc is bitter about being stuck down here at the bottom of the farm AND not having a wine of her own.
CF: Torega! I can hear you! I am also capable of introducing myself.
Please, pay him no attention. I appear in two outstanding wines from Groot Constantia: the flagship Gouverneurs Reserve and the Constantia Rood. I provide berry-fruit flavours and add a tartness to the wines with my tannins. I might only play a supporting role, but I have a purpose here.
T: Tartness indeed! Hehehe...
CF: I’m warning you Torega!
T: Okay, okay. I apologise.
I on the other hand quite like being down here. I’m an outsider anyway, you see. I hail from Portugal and I am used here to make…? Yes, that's right! Port! It’s like me, robust yet smooth and sophisticated. It’s ruby red and best paired with something decadent – a dark, silky mousse maybe, with a voluptuous dollop of cream, or a soft, golden sponge cake with… [increasingly rapturous, drifts off]
CF: Really Torega, sometimes you’re too much!
Torega Nacional & Cab Franc III
NARRATOR: I think it’s time we moved on. But before we do, look out towards the horizon. On a clear day, False Bay is a bright strip of blue just above the treeline.
In summer, a cool wind blows up off of the ocean and cools and aerates the vines here, reducing the chance of fungal and bacterial diseases developing.
Okay, turn with your back to the dam. We’re returning to the manor house following the same dirt track.
Torega Nacional & Cab Franc IV
CF: Oh, you’re leaving?
T: It was a pleasure meeting you! Come back soon! Tchau!
N: Carry on straight.
Who Goes Where: Choosing Groot Constantia's Grapes
N: Locals call the cool wind I mentioned a moment ago the Southeaster. It’s a name that more or less explains itself, because it blows in off of False Bay, to our southeast.
Winds that strong can do a lot of damage to a vineyard, but some cultivars are more fragile than others.
FLO: We are actually in the hands of nature.
N: That’s Floricius again. While you walk, look to your right, at the pinotage and muscat blocks. Try to see them like Floricius does.
How steeply does the ground slope, and in which direction?
If your answer was “slightly, and to the south”, you’re right. It’s because of this slope that the grapes here will get less sun than grapes planted on a north-facing slope.
FLO: I think we’re very blessed with this very special vineyard site. We've got the right amount of south facing slopes, overlooking False Bay, ideal for our white varieties…we've got beautiful north facing slopes for our red varieties. This farm gives you everything you need to have a variety of grapes.
N: The slope or aspect of a vineyard is an important consideration for viticulturists. But the environment is important in lots of other ways too. There’s rainfall to consider, and elevation, temperature, soil…
BOELA: You've got two main soils, the granite soils and the sandstone soils.
N: That’s Boela, Groote Constantia’s winemaker.
BOELA: Granite is the clay soils, so that gives more powerful wines, more concentration. Sandstone gives more floral, more aromatic wines, not very concentrated and more simple on the palate.
N: Like Boela says, soil is one factor that influences the character of the grapes. When people speak about how all of these environmental factors come together in the taste of a wine, they talk about terroir.
FLO: Terroir is a French word, and the French loves to use it.
N: All of the wines of Groot Constantia are Estate Wines. This means that every bottle of Groot Constantia wine is made from grapes grown at Groot Constantia, and only grapes grown at Groot Constantia.
This is why the estate’s unique terroir is so important, and it’s up to Floricius to decide how to make the most of it.
FLO: To get healthy, beautiful grapes into the cellar, that's my job. From there on, Boela will take over.
BOELA: For us the emphasis is not on wine making. The emphasis is on the vineyards. What we do is only translating the grapes to the bottle.
As soon as the fruit is there in the vineyard, I spend more time with Flo in the vineyard than I do in the cellar.
We monitor the ripeness. We go into the vineyards, and we start sampling. Walk the vineyards, pick berries, random samples from every vineyard.
You taste the grapes and when they get to the profile you want it to be, that's when you take it off. It's amazing, if you chew the grapes you'll get an indication of where the wine's going to.
Look after the vines, and you'll make magic wines.
N: Jean agrees with this approach.
JEAN: Boela is a traditionalist. His main motto is whatever the vine is producing, he wants to capture that in it's simplest form…And in a way, that aligns very well with our whole traditional way of looking at things and keeping the old traditions alive.
N: Keep going straight.
A Good Bunch
NARRATOR: Carry on walking along the dirt track as it turns to the right and then veers left. We’re making our way back towards the manor house.
[2 sec pause]
MUSCAT: Ah, you've returned! I hope you’ll excuse my neighbours, particularly that upstart Pinotage. They’re actually a good bunch.
PINOTAGE: (distant) I can hear you, Muscat!
MUSCAT: Ahem! Yes, well…
Head Straight, Alongside the Manor House
NARRATOR: Turn left here.
[4 Sec PAUSE]
Then continue straight, staying on this side of the Manor House. You’ll see a duck pond when you come out behind it.
NARRATOR: The impressive white building just ahead used to be Groot Constantia’s cellar. It isn’t used for winemaking anymore, but it’s an important part of the estate’s heritage, and like the manor house, it is managed by the Iziko Museums of South Africa.
Make your way over to it’s front entrance.
This cellar is named after Hendrik Cloete, who built it more than 200 years ago. Cloete purchased Groot Constantia in 1778 and ushered in a golden age soon afterwards. His family continued making wine here for generations.
Anton Anreith's Pediment
NARRATOR: Look up, above the entrance, at the grand pediment over the doorway. Can you see the cherubs tussling over bunches of grapes? These were sculpted by the German master Anton Anreith, whose art adorns many of the Cape’s most historic buildings.
It is thought that Cloete commissioned the pediment to celebrate a particularly good harvest.
[2 Sec PAUSE]
Once you’ve had a good look, turn left and walk around to the back of the cellar.
NARRATOR: Stop here for a moment. At the bottom of the embankment to your left, there’s a block of Pinot Noir grapes.
PINOT NOIR: That’s me! Hello darlings! How are you today? Enjoying your little stroll through the vineyard?
NARRATOR: Ah, the delectable Ms Noir. What’s the game today madam?
PINOT NOIR: I’m playing it cool – as always, silly boy. That's why I'm in the gully down below. Just me and the babbling stream. The dappled sunshine down here brings out the berry in me, and puts the pop in Groot Constantia’s bubbles. The estate’s Method Cap Classique is 90 percent Pinot Noir, after all.
You can also find me in the Constantia Rood, adding some much needed subtlety to this robust blend of Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage and Cab Franc. Think of it as a lady's gentle touch, my dears – the "cherry" on top of the blend’s bouquet!
NARRATOR: Ah, Ms Noir, you’re a real palette cleanser. But we have to move on again.
Carry on going behind the Cloete Cellar, towards the restaurant ahead of you.
PINOT NOIR: Do pop by again soon! Au revoir!
NARRATOR: Turn left here, and walk straight across the car park.
To the Wooden Shed
NARRATOR: Can you see the wooden shed on the other side of the car park? That’s where we’re going.
Follow the Path
NARRATOR: On the other side of the shed, beside the vineyard, there’s a path. Make your way over to it, and then turn right.
[4 Sec PAUSE]
Just after you turn right, you might need to go around a chain barricade – or over it, if that’s easier.
[2 Sec PAUSE]
Either way, once you’re on the path, you’ll have the vineyard on your left and a row of trees on your right. Keep going. I'll meet you a little further ahead.
Merlot & Chardonnay
N: Carry on going straight, along this path.
Let me introduce you to two of Groot Constantia’s more…congenial…vines. To your immediate left, is Mr Merlot.
MERLOT: Hello there. Charmed to make your acquaintance.
N: And in the next block, a little further up the path, is Mrs Chardonnay.
CHARDONNAY: Delighted to meet you! I imagine you’re thinking that we're a bit of an odd couple to find planted side by side.
M: But we actually have quite a lot in common.
C: You see, we both love the same things! High elevations on north-facing slopes, bathed in sunlight.
M: We’re all about the warm temperatures here! Heat intensifies the spicy aromatics in me! And my deep red colouring.
C: It brings out my golden nature, as well as delicate fruit flavours – flavours like pear and peach, with a hint of lemon!
M: That it does my dear. Pear and peach are lovely on the palette, I know, but I find that at the end of the day, most people prefer relaxing with a nice glass of red, matured in an oak barrel.
C: Here we go again. You’ve become so predictable darling! Actually, most people prefer to unwind with a cool glass of white.
M: Nothing beats a bold, red-blooded wine my love, especially when you’re standing around a braai.
C: Standing around a braai! I think you'll find that anyone with a discerning palette prefers subtle, sophisticated flavours. At least we can agree on oak maturation. It gives me my unmistakable vanilla bouquet!
M: Dearest, you can’t…
C: Oh but I can darling...
M: All I’m trying to say is that…
C: All you’re trying to say is what, exactly?
M: Let me finish!
NARRATOR: Ah, let's get an actual expert's input, shall we? Boela?
BOELA: For me the beauty of Constantia wine is the fruit quality, whites and red. Beautiful perfume on the whites. And you get really nice fruit concentration on the whites. The reds, you get beautiful fruit, but not overly aggressive, it's not big tannic wines. Very nice elegant, restrained style wines.
N: Does that settle things between the two of you, for now at least?
M: I suppose.
C: Yes, but I didn’t start this...
N: Excellent! Let’s continue walking straight.
NARRATOR: Can you see a wooden platform just ahead? Carry on straight past it, and then follow the path that leads uphill.
There are some very practical reasons for planting both grapes here. I’ll let Floricius explain.
FLO: Chardonnay is very wind sensitive, especially in flowering time. That's why we have to plant it lower down. It's on a north facing slope…And right next to the Chardonnay, where it's protected from the south-easter wind, we've got Merlot, on a very tough clay-based soil. But we manipulate it with a little bit of water. And that's the best Merlot on the farm.
N: So it all comes back to terroir. In fact, the Constantia Valley has its own microclimate, and gets more rainfall annually than London.
I’ll tell you more about that in a moment. For now, keep following the road.
NARRATOR: Turn right here, and carry on down to the road.
That microclimate I mentioned makes Constantia very different to its neighbours. Stellenbosch, which also produces a number of fine wines, is just 60 kilometres away. But the annual rainfall in Stellenbosch is almost a full 50% lower than Constantia’s.
False Bay is one reason for this. But it’s only half the story, because when the southeaster blows moisture in off the sea, it’s the mountain behind you that traps it. It’s the combination of these two – of False Bay and the mountain – that cools down the whole valley and makes and makes Constantia such a special place to grow wine. It also gives Table Mountain it’s famous tablecloth.
Carry on going down to the road.
NARRATOR: Turn left here, at the bottom of the slope. We’re walking along the road for a bit, so keep an eye out for cars – and the occasional tractor.
Where Grapes Go To Become Wine
NARRATOR: Stop here for a moment.
The back of the cellar is on your right now. Look over and you’ll see a metal bin with netting over it. This is where grapes are brought in during the harvest, after being carefully picked by hand.
BOELA: We do the grape sorting in the vineyard. Making sure only the best stuff comes into the winery.
N: Floricius says that not much has changed over the last three hundred years.
FLO: The mechanisation that we use in the vineyard is absolutely, "Jan Van Riebeek" style. And it's the same in the cellar, very hands on.
N: Carry on going straight.
If you’d like to find out more about what happens in the cellar, there’s VoiceMap tour for that too. It’ll guide you through the history of winemaking here at Groot Constantia, and walk you through the process from berry to barrel to bottle.
Up the Hill
NARRATOR: Turn left here, and go all the way up this hill, keeping the vines on your right. We’re walking beside another block of merlot.
MERLOT: Hello again. It's me, Merlot. Did you know that you can tell different grape varieties apart by their leaves?
NARRATOR: So each vine leaf is unique, like a finger print?
MERLOT: Right! Identifying and classifying different vines is actually a branch of botany in its own right. It’s called Ampelography from the Ancient Greek words for vine and writing.
Ampelography was formalised in 1952 by a French scientist named Pierre Galet. He identified 9,600 different vines using the shape and contours of the leaves, as well as the characteristics of growing shoots, the sex of the flowers, and the colour, size and pips of the grapes themselves.
Galet’s method is has become a bit dated recently, because of advances in DNA testing, and ampelographers now work in laboratories and wear white lab coats.
N: 9,600 different varieties. That’s a lot.
MERLOT: Actually, my boy, botanists have now identified more than 10,000. But only 1,300 or so are used in winemaking.
N: That’s still a lot. Floricius, how do you weigh up all the all the different environmental factors and decide on the perfect block for a particular grape?
FLO: We analyse the soil, we look at the aspect, temperature, and the amount of sunlight per day in that specific area. And so we decide on what variety we will plant there.
We get in a land surveyor, and we plot out by GPS every single post on the farm. And then we plant the vines, so we know it's very accurate and in line. After a year, the plant will start growing and in that first year it's all about root development. From there, that second year, we will put the vine onto the first cordon wire. The third year you can start pruning and do your spacing of the vine. You've got your trunk, two arms, and your shoots going up. Only after three years you will have your first harvest.
NARRATOR: That’s quite an investment!
We’re turning off the road a little further ahead. You’re almost there.
Down the Garden Path
NARRATOR: Turn left here, and follow the path into the garden.
[2 Sec PAUSE]
There’s an old pool just ahead, with raised sides and a fountain emptying water into it. Can you hear it?
Once you’ve spotted the pool, go all the way over to it.
The Historic Bath
NARRATOR: Stop here for a moment, by the pool.
At the time of this recording, the bath is due for restoration. Work might be underway by right now – or finished maybe. How’s it looking?
[2 Sec PAUSE]
Jean, what can you tell us about this pool?
JEAN: It was built during the Cloete family's tenure at Groot Constantia. If you look at where it's built, it's sort of in a natural stream, and that stream was channelled into the bath. That was your old swimming pool.
N: How refreshing! And that statue looks like Triton to me. In Greek mythology, he’s the merman son of Poseidon, prince of the sea.
You can’t see Triton’s bottom half here, which is a pity, because this Greek god has the tail of a fish. And the fountain’s water could only be pouring out of the legendary conch shell that allows him to control the seas.
The Ancient Greek’s had their own story about a great flood. It was similar to the story of Noah and his ark in many ways, but in their version it was Triton who ended the flood.
Ovid tells this story in his Metamorphosis:
Triton, sea-hued, his shoulders barnacled with sea-shells, blew his echoing conch to bid the rivers, waves and floods retire. He raised his horn, his hollow spiralled whorl, the horn that, sounded in mid ocean, fills the shores of dawn and sunset round the world; and when it touched the god's wet-bearded lips and took his breath and sounded the retreat, all the wide waters of the land and sea heard it, and all, hearing its voice, obeyed.
[2 Sec PAUSE]
Now turn your back to the bath. Do you see the pathway to your left, going through the trees and up the mountain?
We're heading that way. You'll hear from me again on the dirt track through the trees.
Onwards and Upwards
NARRATOR: When you emerge from the trees here, carry on straight. We’re following the track between the vineyards and the row of trees.
NARRATOR: Keep walking straight, up towards the mountain. While you walk, allow me to introduce you to Sauvignon Blanc.
SAUVIGNON BLANC: Thank you for the introduction. Yes, I'm Sauvignon Blanc. I’m a dominant force in the Cape, and Groot Constantia is no exception. I’ve managed to carve out a lot of real estate for myself here – that’s me on the slopes to your left, all the way to top. I have some property to your right too, on the other side of the row of trees, and one more block to the south of here.
[2 sec pause]
We’ll find out the secret to Sauvignon Blanc’s success soon. For now, just keep going straight.
NARRATOR: Do you see the path going off to the right, by the metal fence? Head that way.
[2 Sec PAUSE]
The row of trees to your right here, beside the path, are mostly indigenous to the Cape. They've been a part of the landscape for millennia – a lot longer than any of the vines!
Jean has a plan for this patch of land:
JEAN: Our aim is to rehabilitate that slope to it's old state, indigenous plants. All fynbos.
N: I'll meet you at the top of the slope, on the other side of the trees.
The Thatched Cottage
NARRATOR: Phew! Let's stop here for a moment to catch our breath, and take in the view.
[2 Sec PAUSE]
You might have noticed the Cape Dutch style building behind to your left, with a small block of vines around it. This is not part of Groot Constantia, but it is a good example of a micro-vineyard.
This is a popular pastime for some – growing your own grapes to make your own wine. People who do this are known as Garagistes. The name comes from the Bordeaux region of France, where hobbyists first started converting a garage or small shed into a cellar. Most of them don’t have their own micro-vineyards though. They buy grapes from the region’s farms.
Turn now, to face the impressive view you have from here, over False Bay.
[2 Sec PAUSE]
All around, you can see the suburbs of the city surrounding the vineyard. Closer in, there‘s the small dam where we met Cabernet Franc and Torega Nacional. Just past it, there’s another wine estate, Buitenverwachting. And to the right of that is Klein Constantia, with vines climbing up the mountainside.
These estates were all part of the original farm established by Simon van der Stel in 1685. They were only broken up after his death in 1712 and 1823.
[2 Sec PAUSE]
Now turn, so that the micro-vineyard is on your left, and follow the dirt track down the slope, with the vines on your right.
Seasons in the Vineyard
NARRATOR: For the next few minutes, keep going straight.
[2 sec pause]
There’s always something happening here in the vineyard, but as you’d expect, the amount and type of activity here changes with the passing of the seasons.
Floricius, let’s start with spring. What do you focus on then?
FLO: So early Spring, maybe the second week in September, you will see the little green buds. Now your growing season really starts. And after the flowering time the fruit will start forming. It'll be as big as the head of a match.
N: Hard to believe such a small thing becomes a juicy grape. So, as the grape get’s bigger and starts to ripen, what changes occur?
FLO: By the end of January your plant will stop growing. The development of the fruit will carry on. Your acids will start dropping, but your sugar will actually start increasing. When things are close, we will take some samples back to the laboratory, analyse it, and decide. It's Boela's decision, when we're going to harvest. I will give my input, but the final decision lies with him.
N: Once the fruit’s been picked, what happens to the vines?
FLO: After your harvest, theres still a percentage of leaves on the vine, and you try to keep that leaves as healthy as possible. So, if you really need to give food to the plant, you will do it right after harvest, just to build reserves for the next budding season.
N: Right, having produced all that fruit, the vine needs to recover. What happens during winter?
FLO: In the winter time, the plant will rest. We go in and we take the bulk of the shoots off, then, around July, you will come and you will do a clean pruning. That means you cut away all the dead wood, and you just leave one shoot where you want it. And end of August, you will come through for the third time, and you will cut that last one to the amount of eyes that you want on that little shoot.
N: And those “eyes” are the buds that will become the next year’s growth.
Carry on walking.
NARRATOR: Can you see the cottages further down the hill, just beyond those trees? Those are the homes of some of people that work on the estate. Some of them have been here for generations.
Carry on going straight.
The People of Groot Constantia
NARRATOR: Turn right here, and follow the track through the vineyard.
[2 Sec PAUSE]
One of the people who lives and works on the estate is Daniel Thana. He’s been for nearly 20 years.
DANIEL: My name is Daniel Thana. I stay on the farm with my wife and kids. I'm a supervisor here on the farm, looking after four teams. I like teaching people, for the job.
N: Although the traditional methods used on the farm are hard, sweaty work, Daniel prefers them.
DANIEL: We do it only by hand here, not machinery. It's a nice thing to do with your hands, your hand can tell you, you must cut that out or you must leave that.
N: You'll hear from me again a little further down the track.
More from Sauvignon Blanc
NARRATOR: Turn right here, between the two blocks of vines.
[2 sec pause]
The blocks on your left and right are both Merlot.
Merlot: Hello again.
N: But to your right, a little further up, there is another block of Sauvignon Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc: Yup, that’s all me. It’s lovely to see you in my vineyard again.
Merlot: Your vineyard! You’re as bad as Chardonnay.
SB: I’ve had just about enough of your sour grapes Merlot. My success is totally justified.
N: Oh, that’s right, we were talking about your success a little while ago, weren’t we?
M: I’m sure you were. It’s her favourite topic.
N: Well, I’m sure our visitors are interested Merlot. What is your secret Sauvignon Blanc?
SB: Well, although I have as much history as any of the grapes here on the estate, I know how to move with the times. I’m adaptable – dry and fresh sometimes, with hints of summer grass, or sweet and tart when you get to know me better, with tropical fruit on the nose.
I have my own line here at Groot Constantia, as well as playing a significant role in the Gouverneurs Reserve, which is a Bordeaux blend. I lend acidity and grassy aromas to Semillon’s structure and mouthfeel. Boela will deny it, but I’m also his personal favourite.
BOELA: Ja, it’s difficult to pick a favourite hey. It really depends on the mood…time of day…what you’re eating.
BOELA: [But] Since I started winemaking, I’ve been fascinated with Sauvignon Blanc. And there are quite a few styles. There’s always something bubbling somewhere in the cellar. A few interesting barrels that we’re making now – and blends that we’re making now.
N: Keep going straight. We’re making our way back to the cellar now, where our walk ends.
NARRATOR: Turn left at the end of the track, and head down alongside the road.
Back in 1866, Groot Constantia’s vines were ravaged by a disease called Phylloxera that attacks vines’ roots and leaves.
Phylloxera is caused by an insect similar to an aphid. These little bugs are indigenous to North America, and the expansion of trade that took Grand Constance to distant shores turned out to be a double-edged sword, because it also brought Phylloxera back to South Africa with it. France was affected too, and the Great French Wine Blight caused by the disease left the entire industry in ruins. Whole vineyards had to be destroyed to eradicate the pest.
Here at Groot Constantia, it created all sorts of financial problems for the Cloete family, which had done so much to develop the estate. They struggled on for a while, but eventually had to sell.
Luckily, North American vines are resistant to Phylloxera, and the disease has been brought under control by grafting American rootstock onto every vine.
NARRATOR: Cross over the road, keeping an eye open for any traffic, and continue walking straight down the hill, towards the Manor House.
[2 Sec PAUSE]
You may have spotted baboons here at Groot Constantia. They live on the slopes of Table Mountain National Park, above the estate, but come down here to steal grapes – and sometimes for a swim in the historic pool.
For Floricius, they’re a headache.
FLO: The baboons, when they play in the vineyard, like baboons do, tear off the shoots, and by tearing off the shoots they are damaging the secondary and the third bud that are in dormancy. So that means, they don't only damage this year's harvest, but the harvest to come for the next year has also been damaged. That's a huge problem for us.
N: But being close to nature brings other visitors to the estate too – from small antelope to porcupines and frogs, owls to eagles.
Continue straight down the hill.
Leaving the Vineyards
NARRATOR: Turn right here, onto the brick-paved road. We’re making our way back to the cellar.
The Sun Dial
NARRATOR: Turn left now, and carry on down the road. But keep an eye out for a gap in the wall on your right. It’s only a few metres away, and it leads through to a sun dial on a pedestal.
[2 Sec PAUSE]
Spotted the gap in the wall yet? Turn right to go through it, and then follow the path back to the cellar's entrance.
End of Tour
NARRATOR: And here we are, back at the cellar. We hope you've enjoyed this stroll through the vineyards of Groot Constantia!
If you've worked up a thirst, be sure to pop into the cellar for a tasting. Why not try each of the varieties that we met on our walk?
There’s are two other VoiceMap tours available, if you haven’t done them already. I’ve mentioned the cellar tour. The other one takes you into the Manor House, where you’ll meet the men and women who gave shape to this historic estate, establishing one of the world’s oldest trademarks in the process.
For something to eat, you have two options. For cuisine that reflects the estate’s heritage, you can go to Jonkershuis, a restaurant with beautiful views of the Constantia Valley. Your second option is Simon’s, which uses fresh, locally grown ingredients to prepare classic dishes. Simon’s also sells picnic baskets..
Thanks, and from me, goodbye.
FLO: Thanks for visiting us, and have a fantastic day.
BOELA: Thanks for visiting, goodbye!
JEAN: Thanks for joining us on this walk through the vineyard. I hope you've enjoyed it…and I hope you've added yourself to our impressive list of clients. Goodbye.