A vineyard is born

The legacy and supremacy of our wines start in our vineyards. Agricultural activities at Groot Constantia included viticulture, and our Constantia wines became renowned in Europe. In 1709 there were 70 000 vines on the farm and Van der Stel produced 5,630 litres of wine. During the years ownership of Groot Constantia changed, but the legacy and supremacy of the wines produced remained.

  • Despite the size of Constantia, Simon van der Stel seemed to have a big desire for land. In 1693 he acquired the neighbouring farm Witteboomen and in 1699 the farm Boschheuvel (presently Bishopscourt), the latter of which he soon disposed. In 1699 he retired as governor and acquired Zeekoeijenvalleij.

  • By 1709 Van der Stel owned 60 slaves (originating from Bali, Batavia, Brazil, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Ceylon, China, India, Madagascar, and some of course were Cape born). These slaves worked in the vineyards and wheat and barley fields.

  • In 1712 Simon van der Stel made his last will in favour of his five children. Constantia should be sold two years after his death and some of the slaves were to be set free. Ironically, by 1712 his sons Willem Adriaan and Frans were no longer living in the Cape. In 1797 Willem Adriaan had been recalled to the Netherlands because of his corrupt and monopolistic activities as Cape Governor.

  • On 24 June 1712 Simon van der Stel died at the age of 73. Then in 1714 Constantia was subdivided and sold by way of auction.

  • Pieter de Meijer bought two parts, Bergvliet and Klein Constantia. Captain Oloff Bergh bought the part (later known as Groot Constantia) on which the Van der Stel buildings were situated.

  • On 13 November 1716 Oloff Bergh officially took possession of Groot Constantia. He was born in Goteborg, Sweden in 1643. He joined the VOC in 1665 spending a few years as a soldier in Ceylon and arrived as a sergeant at the Cape in 1676. He met Anna de Koningh at the Cape; they fell in love and got married. The union produced 11 children. Bergh must have done very little about the viticulture on the farm. His neighbour, Johannes Colijn of Klein Constantia (later De Hoop op Constantia), produced quality wines that drew overseas attention and became well known as Constantia Wines.

  • In 1724 Oloff Bergh died and his wife Anna de Koningh became the first female owner of Groot Constantia. She was born in Batavia and was one of three children from the slave Angela of Bengal.

  • When she died in 1734 Carl Georg Wieser became the new owner of Groot Constantia on 9 August 1734, he proceeded to further develop Groot Constantia. He increased the viticulture activities and by 1751 had 60 000 vines from which 16,890 litres of wine were produced.

  • Wieser died in 1759 and his stepson, Jacobus van der Spuij, bought Groot Constantia.

  • On 8 June that same year van der Spuij also had to borrow money toward the purchase of the farm and the additional expenses of slaves and wooden caskets. Like his predecessors, he had to supply wine to the VOC, which resulted in financial problems.

  • In spite of this, by 1772 it appeared that Groot Constantia produced a more superior quality of wine to Klein Constantia, increasing the purchase value of their wines. Surprisingly van der Spuij never involved himself with the actual production of the wine; rather he had a slave who acted as cellar master during his period of ownership.

  • On 15 January 1778 the farm was sold to Jan Serrurier– three months later Jacobus van der Spuij died.

  • Hail damage to the vineyards and the resulting poor crop contributed to the poor state of the farm and made the ownership of Serrurier short-lived.

  • Eleven months after he bought it, the farm had a new owner and the fortunes of the farm were to change.

Groot Constantia Estate (founded 1685)