Disaster strikes in the vineyards

From powdery mildew striking the vines to plague and fire, the Groot Constantia estate has been challenged to say the least, but through the years passion and legacy prevailed. Under the ownership of the Cape government, the Groot Constantia Control Board was established in 1976 to take charge of the viticulture on the farm.

In 1984 Groot Constantia and Hoop op Constantia were declared National Monuments.

  • In 1859 disaster struck in the form of the wine disease "Oidium Tuckeri", popularly known as powdery mildew. Jacob's oldest son Hendrik treated the vines with sulphur and partly succeeded in combatting the disease.

  • Phylloxera is a root louse that attacks the “vitis vinifera” grapevines, eventually causing their death. A massive infestation of Phylloxera took place in Europe and America at the same time, destroying millions of acres of grapevines. During the plague it was discovered that America's “vitis labrusca” grapevines were immune to Phylloxera. From that time onwards most “vitis vinifera” grapevines have been grafted onto “vitis labrusca” roots making the vinifera vines highly resistant to Phylloxera.

  • By 1872 Jacob Pieter was bankrupt and could no longer meet his obligations. He appeared in the Cape Supreme Court and was declared insolvent. Groot Constantia however was to remain in his estate until 1885. Jacob left the farm and went to live in Plumstead where he died in 1875. He was buried in the Groot Constantia graveyard.

  • Henry Clifford de Meillon was married to Maria Catharina Duckitt. After his mother's death in 1867 Henry, his wife Maria and their seven children moved from the Jonkershuis into the farmstead. Their eighth child was born two years later on the farmstead.

  • Phylloxera must have been a plague to the Cloete’s for a long time, because in 1875 Henry left for France to study remedies for the disease. He stayed there for ten years. Henry's son Freddie acted as farm manager, and his son Jacob managed the estate's office in Adderley Street, Cape Town.

  • Henry returned from Europe and it was decided to sell Groot Constantia by auction. On 1st October 1885 the Cape Government became the new owner, having bought the farm for a mere £5,275. When compared to the amount of £18,750 paid in 1824, the sad state of the vines on the farm was evident.

  • The Cape Government used the farm as an experimental wine farm. A setback occurred when Phylloxera invaded the farm in 1899. The American wild vine stock was used to combat the plague.

  • Just before Christmas 1925 a fire gutted the historic farmstead. This probably saved Groot Constantia because the government was forced to take a fresh look at the estate. The house was restored under the chairmanship of the architect Franklin Kendall. Alfred de Pass, from 1927 until his death in 1952, donated and bought objects for the Manor house and refurbished it.

  • In 1963 control of the farm was handed over to the Agricultural Technical Service. In 1969 the South African Cultural History Museum, presently part of Iziko Museums of Cape Town, became responsible for the running of the farmstead and historic “Cloete” wine cellar.

  • During 1971 a wine museum was established in a part of the wine cellar by the South African Cultural History Museum. In 1974 this was closed and demolished.

  • In 1975 Hoop op Constantia and part of Nova Constantia were consolidated with Groot Constantia. An adjoining property, Coleyn, followed in the early 1980s.
  • The Groot Constantia Control Board was established in 1976 to take charge of the viticulture on the farm. In 1984 Groot Constantia and Hoop op Constantia were declared National Monuments.

  • In 1993 ownership of the entire estate was transferred from the government to an independent company, named Groot Constantia Trust. The main aim of the Trust is to preserve and maintain the cultural heritage of the estate for posterity.

Groot Constantia Estate (founded 1685)