The first thing that greets any visitor to Groot Constantia is a strong aroma.
The air is heavy with the heady scent of wine on the walk up to the barrel room and factory. People wander around outside, chatting under the shade of green leaves. A group of fat, white ducks waddle near the entrance looking for something to nibble on; some even chance a peek inside and quack indignantly when shooed out. The faint noise of machines working through the end of the harvest season whirs on in the background.
Inside, the air is cool and the barrel room and tasting areas smells even more strongly of wine.
Kyle Dylan George, a WSET Level 3 Certified Wine Specialist, has worked at Groot Constantia for 3 years. He leads guided tours through the cellar and factory daily; sharing details of the estate and the array of wines produced.
He leads a walk through the factory discussing the history of the 170 hectare estate and the wine making process.
“We have just harvested our late harvest which is our red Muscat which we use to make our Grand Constance – the famous sweet desert wine,” he explains, “the grapes are left on the vine until they start shriveling up almost like raisins and become incredibly sweet to taste.” Kyle plucks a bunch of grapes from the machine that is sorting them and offers some to taste. The grapes are a deep red and shriveled- similar to raisins just like Kyle said. They are surprisingly sweet; perfect for the Grand Constance.
During the harvest season, the estate is a hive of activity. Post-harvest season, Groot Constantia continues the momentum as the estate begins the fermentation process and preps for bottling. While all this happens, tours continue, allowing visitors to take everything in.
Groot Constantia is South Africa’s oldest wine producing estate and produces award-winning wines annually. It takes a lot to create the stellar harvests. “There’s a lot that goes into making a really great bottle of wine,” says Kyle, “you need a good viticulturist also a great wine-maker’s method. The hugely important one is terroir (soil, topography and climate). It’s all about the factors coming together perfectly.”
Groot Constantia is a popular spot in the Constantia wine lands receiving just under 500 000 visitors annually, according to Hailey Donald of Constantia Valley Tourism. Even early on a Tuesday morning, there are groups strolling through the grounds, taking photos and enjoying world-class wines.
Kyle rounds off his tour back in the tasting room, answering what it is about Groot Constantia that keeps people coming back.
“It’s all about the customer interaction. It’s the experience they get with staff here. It’s not just about selling wine; it’s about giving the customer an experience they’ll remember. Oh and obviously the view and the awesome wine too!”