South Africa: Wines of Constantia Valley

By John ~ February 17th, 2009.

20090217_buitenverwachtingvineyardOur next excursion on our South Africa trip was a day trip to the wine farms of the Constantia Valley, a suburb of Cape Town. These wine farms are some of the oldest and most historical in the world outside of Europe, several dating back over 300 years. The setting is beautiful and serene with mountains usually in the background of every vineyard.  This area is a cooler climate region near the ocean, in contrast to warmer wine areas in Stellenbosch, Franschoek, and Paarl which we will be visiting later.

We started out at Groot Constantia Estate, established in 1685. It was the only one of the five wine farms we visited that charged a tasting fee. The Constantia Valley is known primarily for its white wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat dessert wine, but I actually thought a couple of their reds were better than their whites.

Our second stop was at Constantia Uitsig, the youngest wine farm that we visited but a producer of two of the best white wines that we tasted on this day trip. Constantia Uitsig was the site of the recent celebration of the 350th wine vintage in South Africa.

The third stop on our tour was Steenberg Vineyards, a Graham Beck property, founded in 1682. While the setting was beautiful and the service was great, the overall quality of the wines was the least of the five, although they did have a decent Shiraz.

20090217_kleinconstantiaNext we visited the famous Klein Constantia Estate, home of the most famous wine in the world in the 1700’s, the Vin de Constance (sweet Muscat). The tasting room hostess told us about a recent tasting of a bottle of Vin de Constance over 200 years old that was still in good drinking condition. Klein Constantia was the most impressive facility we saw in the Constantia Valley, combining the old and the new in impressive fashion. They may have also had the best overall wine lineup of the five, with no real clunkers. My two favorites were a Cab/Shiraz blend and the 2004 Vin de Constance.

Our final stop was at Buitenverwachting, established in 1796. It is a very old wine farm kept in excellent condition by owner Richard Mueller and his wife Christine. We had the opportunity to visit with Richard and get some of the interesting history of Buitenverwachting first hand. Buitenverwachting means “Beyond Expectation” in English, so their wine is labeled “Beyond” in the U.S. They also had a generally good set of wines as you will see in the ratings list below.

20090217_buitenverwachtingAfter completing the wine farm visits in the early afternoon, we had a leisurely and delicious three course lunch at Buitenverwachting Restaurant in a glass-enclosed terrace overlooking the vineyards with the mountains in the distance. It was an excellent ending to a great first day in South Africa’s wine country.

Please remember from my previous post on South African wines that because we are buying wines here at South African prices based on the rand (R), we decided that it would be misleading and of little value to our core constituency of readers in the U.S. to calculate a QPR rating unless it is a wine we can buy in the U.S. and is of good enough quality to want to buy. Therefore, for the purposes of the wine reviews on this trip, I will only calculate a QPR rating on a wine which I have given a Quality rating of 4 stars (out of 5) or higher and if I can find a U.S. vendor and price on which to base the QPR calculation. Wines that meet these criteria will be set apart from the others by bold type. Otherwise I’ll denote the QPR as Not Calculated (NC) if the Quality rating is 3 stars or higher or Not Recommended (NR) if the Quality rating is less than 3 stars.

Here’s a breakdown of the wines that we tasted in the Constantia Valley:

Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
2004 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance (sweet Muscat), R330, QPR: 4 [Sherry-Lehmann (New York), $46.95]
2008 Constantia Uitsig Sauvignon Blanc, R80, QPR: NC
2006 Buitenverwachting 1769 (Muscat), R80, QPR: NC
2007 Constantia Uitsig Constantia White, R112, QPR: NC
2006 Klein Constantia Anwilka (Cab/Shiraz), R190, QPR: NC
2005 Buitenverwachting Christine (Bordeaux blend), R200, QPR: NC

Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
2007 Klein Constantia KC Rose’, R38, QPR: NC
2008 Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc H.V., R75, QPR: NC
2005 Groot Constantia Cape Ruby Port, R75, QPR: NC
2008 Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc, R85, QPR: NC
2006 Groot Constantia Shiraz, R91, QPR: NC
2007 Steenberg Shiraz, R110, QPR: NC
2006 Klein Constantia Marlbrook, R150, QPR: NC
2005 Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve (Bordeaux blend), R175, QPR: NC

Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
2005 Buitenverwachting Meifort (Bordeaux blend), R50, QPR: NC
2008 Groot Constantia Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, R52, QPR: NC
2008 Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc, R63, QPR: NC
2008 Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc, R72, QPR: NC
2008 Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc, R82, QPR: NC
2007 Klein Constantia Rhine Riesling, R85, QPR: NC
2007 Steenberg Shiraz, R110, QPR: NC
2007 Steenberg Shiraz, R110, QPR: NC
2006 Klein Constantia Cabernet Sauvignon, R120, QPR: NC
2008 Steenberg Merlot, R125, QPR: NC

Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
2008 Klein Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc, R42, QPR: NR
2007 Groot Constantia Constantia Rood, R56, QPR: NR
2008 Constantia Uitsig Chardonnay (unwooded), R72, QPR: NR
2004 Buitenverwachting Cabernet Sauvignon, R85, QPR: NR
2006 Groot Constantia Merlot, R91, QPR: NR
2007 Groot Constantia Gouveneurs Chardonnay, R94, QPR: NR
2006 Groot Constantia Cabernet Sauvignon, R102, QPR: NR
NV Steenberg Brut 1682 Sparkling Wine, R105, QPR: NR
2004 Constantia Uitsig Constantia Red, R120, QPR: NR

Quality: 2 stars (out of 5)
2008 Klein Steenberg Rose’, R42, QPR: NR
2006 Klein Steenberg Bordeaux Blend, R55, QPR: NR

Filed under: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Moscato/Muscat, Port, Red Wine, Riesling, Rose Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz/Syrah, South African Wine, Sparkling Wine, White Wine, Wine Travel, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Sam | February 25th, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    I’ve really enjoyed reading about your experiences in South Africa. As an importer of many of South Africa’s best wines I wanted to chime in on one quick point. Beyond is the label for one Sauvignon Blanc that Buitenverwacthing produces, however, their estate Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling are imported under the Buitenverwachting label as well. Also (for what it’s worth) the Klein Constantia Vin de Constance was just rated 94 points in Wine Spectator – what a magnificent wine that is.

    Best regards,


  2. John | February 25th, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks, Sam, for your clarification on the Buitenverwachting. If there’s anything that you import that we didn’t taste in South Africa that you believe we should take a look at, please feel free to send us a sample.

  3. Parag | April 27th, 2010 at 4:11 am

    The Constantia valley wines is one of Cape Town’s official big 6 tourist destinations. A visit to the oldest wine estate in the country, Groot Constantia is unforgettable. It is one of the world’s great wine brands and situated within the city borders in the heart of breathtaking Constantia Valley.

  4. John | April 27th, 2010 at 4:21 am

    Parag, I remember our visit to Groot Constantia with fondness. It was amazing to find such an interesting and historic wine area right inside a major city like the Constantia Valley in Cape Town.