Most people with an inkling of the history of SA wine would regard the Constantia Valley as the cradle of the country’s wine culture. Its case for this rests less on the lines of “first one there” and more on the role it played in nurturing SA’s incipient fine wine culture. Simon van der Stel’s farm, which opened up the region, became a model agricultural enterprise. The governor wrote a rule book for wine production, which was probably worth more in terms of driving quality wine standards than the Huguenot influx. His example, coupled with the region’s viticultural potential and (a century later) Hendrik Cloete’s genius, produced the dessert wine we know today as Vin de Constance. In the late 18th century it became the most sought-after wine in the world. It’s difficult to ignore the claims of Constantia with this kind of pedigree. The region’s glory days didn’t last forever. The British occupation of the Cape brought to an end the lucrative VOC Amsterdam auctions of the Constantia...

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