Going Grape Constantia

Groot Constantia vineyards.

Human Rights Day, and I’m picking Shiraz grapes at 07:00 on Groot Constantia Estate. Okay, this is not the slashing of ripe bunches with secateurs – sticky from grape juice – followed by the lugging of heavy fruit-laden boxes. No. This was more deftly strategic work.

See, before harvesting of a specific block can commence, berry samples have to be taken to ascertain the willingness of the grapes to be eased over into wine. This is why Boela Gerber, Groot Constantia Cellarmaster, and I were going through the bunches, berry-by-berry, picking a representative 2kg bag-full to see when the real picking could start.

With rain apparently on the way next week, it is becoming important to get the stuff in. But not before that state of harmonious ripeness is reached.

We spend an hour collecting samples from the block, tasting and picking, and I call the grapes’ sugar at 24,5?+¦?????+¦???-¬ Balling,,perfect for picking right nonw.,Back at the winery, the samples are crushed and the analysis done: 24,7?+¦?????+¦???-¬ Balling ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ unfortunately I have the next few months all set out so can’t take accept Boela’s offers to share these skills at Groot Constantia.

Downstairs, in the cool barrel cellar, a couple of 500 litre barrels house fermenting, Shiraz grapes. I love the feeling of the cold, compact crust of skins, poking my arm in through the crust into the fermenting juice, feeling the juice wet my elbow.

A purple strip shows the effect the moon has on the rising and dropping of barrel levels.

“Hope you haven’t been scratching your nuts before you arrived,” Gerber says in typical earnest and concerned fashion as he directs me to the rinsing tap.

But first I point to the level of the grapes and juice in the barrel. It is apparent that this has been rising and ebbing some eight centimetres, obviously a result of the super big moon over the Cape during the past few days. Moon pull. Huge, and real.

Okay, this is Groot Constantia, and these are the wines to look out for:


Classical and restrained, with superb acidity and length, making it a keeper. Citrus and white flowers, beautiful tang and harmony to make a tuning fork wilt.

Gouverneurs Sauvignon Blanc

Whack of Semillon to remove the general one-dimensionality of South African Sauvignon Blanc. Inoffensive acidity, full-ish mouthfees, balance between cool climate mango and tangy green figs.


One of the best in the country, announcing that the elegance of cool-climate Pinotage is something the Pinotage Pontiffs need to recognise. Crushed blackberry, hint of porcini and pine-needle all wrapped around a delicious juicy core.

Gouverneurs Shiraz

A cultured Shiraz. No sluttish Turkish delight or Syrian brothel tones, as so many SA numbers like to show. White pepper, dried rose petal and a hint of cured pheasant cheek make this a very classical and European wine.

Grand Constance

Absolutelyawesome unfortified sweet wine from Muscat d’Frontignan grapes. Apricots and honeysuckle, a whiff of alluring dried spices, Brazilian orchids,- this is what Penelope Cruz’s handkerchief must smell like. The taste is satisfying, sweet but with a perky acidity making it one to stash away.,


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9 thoughts on “Going Grape Constantia

  1. Its such a pity they treat their customers like shit when you get to the cellar door. I’ve been to the estate 5 times in 6 years, and each time the experience was worse than the time before, and it was pretty spectacularly crap to start with. I won’t bother buying the wine if they can’t get their customer service right.

  2. Aah f@*kit Hennie, stop whining like a constipated aardvark- you’re getting to sound just like Christianne von Ulmenstein. This story is about the quality of their grapes, and Boela Gerber’s skills in resuscitating what was deemed to be a failed estate with some pretty crappy wines. Somehow he has managed to turn an also-ran into a real winner!

  3. Boela has done some really great work at GC, but he also uprooted the best (and irreplaceable) Riesling vineyards in Africa. Sies: stoute Boela!

  4. Now there’s something worth moaning about like a meerkat in heat, Kwispedoor! Speaking of rieslings- I recently bought Thelema’s two bottlings- one from Stellenbosch, the other from Elgin. Lovely wines, but very different from one another. Have you tried them?

  5. I’ve tried their Stellenbosch one many times (but it’s been some time since my last taste). I’ve tried the Sutherland one only once last year, but at a wine show where I usually try and taste EVERYTHING, so I can only recall liking it – not specifics. It would be really nice to sit down and taste the two together, preferably blind.

    Those Groot Constantia Weissers always had a touch of sugar, some botrytis and they kept well for longer than any other non-fortified, dryish white from SA. Real classics. I think I have only one left (a 2001 or 2003).

    ‘n Ou wond is oopgekrap – ek’s nou sommer van voor af de moer in vir Boela!

  6. Cool climate Pinotage… is something the Pinotage Pontiffs have long recognised.

    By the way, having not personally experienced a Syrian brothel I am really looking forward to a full report on your last visit… 🙂

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