Imagine rows of vineyards stretching into the distance, a glass of bubbly in your hand. Imagine a view of mountains as you snack on cheese and sip a glass of velvety red wine. Succumb to the pleasures of wine tasting on these Constantia wine farms and discover the allure of Constantia wine tasting at these Cape Town wineries.
The Constantia Valley is home to some of the best wines in South Africa. Just a 15-20 minute drive from the centre of Cape Town, it’s the perfect add-on to your Cape Town holidays, especially if you don’t have time to visit Stellenbosch or any of the other Cape Winelands.
Constantia is South Africa’s oldest wine producing region, home to the very first wine farm established by Simon van der Stel way back in 1685, and a perfect place for your Constantia wine tasting. On Cape Town’s narrow peninsula, the Constantia Valley benefits from cooling sea breezes from the Atlantic Ocean, producing premium wines that can stand their own against some of the best in the world. No wonder, then, that it’s so popular with tourists and locals alike for its wine tasting experiences.
Prices for Constantia wine tasting in March 2020 vary from R60 to around R100 for a tasting of three to five wines. Food and wine pairings (where they are offered) cost a bit more. Some estates waive the fee if you buy wines to the value of R300 to R500, others specify you need to buy six bottles to get your tasting free.
Although Groot Constantia is open for tasting from 9:00 till 18:00, most of the other wine farms only open from 10:00 or 11:00. I’ve provided a link to each estate’s website below, and it would be best to check opening times and prices before you go.
Here are the best Constantia wine farms, presented in alphabetical order so that I don’t have to rank them, which would be both difficult and unfair.
The Chef’s Warehouse restaurant on site offers beautifully crafted and presented food for those with deep pockets. You need to book ahead for the restaurant and in summer you’d be well advised to pre-book your tasting too.
But the best experience here is a wine tasting in the historic wine cellar with its thatched roof and yellowwood ceiling, especially alluring in winter. In summer, sit on the terrace overlooking the garden and green lawns. Order a cheese, pâté and baguette platter or light lunch to accompany your wine or enjoy it as a picnic on the lawns.
This is one of the best-value tastings in Constantia at just R60 to taste five wines (in March 2020). Try the fresh, elegant sauvignon blanc or go full bodied with the velvety flagship Bordeaux blend called Christine. You can even choose to taste the estate’s dessert wine, savouring its delicious scent and muscat sweetness.
We sat on the verandah overlooking the vineyards, so the setting is stunning. When we visited, service was robotic rather than passionate or interesting, making us feel like just another cog in an impersonal wheel. You can also order food if you visit at lunchtime, but I’d suggest booking ahead.
Wine tastings are conducted at the wine shop at the Heritage Market. Explore the other restored old labourers’ cottages to find sushi, vegan food, ice cream, craft beer, or enjoy a yummy salad or open sandwich under a shady umbrella at Nest Deli. There are also two other restaurants at Uitsig – the Blockhouse Kitchen and Italian-inspired La Grotto. The bike park next to La Grotto is a great place for mountain bikers to practise their moves.
Tasting host, Goua, conducted a warm and personal tasting, explaining that vines were first planted here in 2001 and there are now 12 hectares of them, mainly shiraz, merlot and viognier. Our tasting included a crisp sauvignon blanc, viognier, a rosé that tasted strongly of red berries, a good value shiraz/cabernet franc blend, and a much-awarded blockbuster shiraz that begged us to take a bottle home with us.
[Update 2023: Sadly, following the sale of the estate, the Eagle's Nest tasting room has been permanently closed.]
For your tasting, you can choose five wines and they give generous pourings. For me the pick of the wines we tasted was the Gouverneurs Reserve, a Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot. You get to take your Spiegelau crystal glass home with you as a memento. If you love chocolate, ask about the wine and chocolate pairing.
Unfortunately, the Grand Constance wine (South Africa’s oldest wine, much loved by Napoleon) isn’t on the tasting menu but if you have deep pockets you can buy a bottle of the delicious muscat to enjoy its honey and rose petal flavours. Love Jane Austen? This wine is mentioned in Sense and Sensibility as a cure for a broken heart.
We chose the Classic Tasting of five wines. This included two sauvignon blancs (one a collaboration with a French winemaker) and an unusual and approachable red blend combining cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot with shiraz rather than the more traditional merlot. The last and most exciting wine was the delectable Vin de Constance 2015, a 100% muscat de Frontignan with a wonderful balance of natural sweetness and acidity. Our friendly and knowledgeable tasting host, Tendai, explained that it’s harvested over three months and spends three years in oak barrels.
Visit the Bistro under the jacaranda trees for lunch after your tasting; just remember to book ahead as the restaurant is small.
Silvermist Organic Wine Estate
Silvermist is a boutique organic wine estate right at the top of the Constantia Valley, just before Constantia Nek road tips you into Hout Bay. It looks out onto the Twelve Apostles mountains on one side, and over the Constantia Valley towards False Bay on the other. Their small range includes sauvignon blanc, a syrah-cabernet blend and cabernet sauvignon.
We wanted to visit in October 2019 but luckily checked their website first and saw that the tasting room was closed until 1 November for renovations. It also gave opening times for the summer high season from 1 November to 28 February. When we rocked up at the security gate in February 2020, we were turned away. The tasting room had still not reopened although the website hadn’t been updated to reflect that.
When I phoned later to find out why, I heard that when they built a new tasting room they had to reapply for a liquor licence because it was on a different part of the property. And now they wait for the wheels of bureaucracy to grind their slow dance. So although I tried twice, I still can’t tell you about the wines or the wine tasting experience here. [Update October 2023: The Rocket Bar wine tasting venue is open every day so you can pop in for casual a tasting.]
On the same property are a boutique hotel and La Colombe, one of Cape Town’s most world famous fine dining restaurants.
The Xpress Tasting gives you sparkles and a choice of two other wines, including wines from the Flagship range – a big bonus in that you can try Steenberg’s best known Catharina (a blend of 75% merlot with syrah and petit verdot). The Classic Tasting gives you an opening salvo of bubbles, followed by four wines of your choice but excludes the Flagship range. Pourings are super generous and our tasting host was enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
There’s a golf course, hotel, spa and two restaurants on the farm – the bistro-style and tapas restaurant Sixteen Eighty-Two on the same premises as the tasting room, with fine dining at Tryn.
Constantia restaurants on many of the wine farms are popular, whether you’re looking for a relaxed bistro or fine dining with all the bells and whistles. I’ve mentioned many of them in my discussion of the wineries above. Some of the best fine dining experiences (with price tags to match) include Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia, Buitenverwachting, La Colombe at Silvermist and Tryn at Steenberg.
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