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Travellers setting out by road in a southerly direction from Cape Town pass the aptly named Wynberg before arriving at Constantia, once the most famous of the Cape’s traditional wine regions. It is now a mere 20 minutes from the city centre. After the grant of the land (almost 800ha of it) to governor Simon van der Stel by the Dutch East India Company, it began life in its first modern incarnation as a mixed agriculture estate.

For its time it was a model operation. However, in the centuries following Van der Stel’s death, farming in the Constantia Valley was not always the shortest route to wealth creation. There were, of course, notable exceptions: for example, Hendrik Cloete’s 18th-century dessert wines became the stuff of legend. Nevertheless, by the end of the 19th century, Groot Constantia was bankrupt. A century later, in the 1980s and thus very much in living memory, many of the region’s best properties were derelict...

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