{wine tasting} From Gouverneurs to liquid gold: chocolate and wine pairing at Groot Constantia

Every time I drive up the vineyard-laden lane to the heart of Groot Constantia, yet another bit of unexplored territory awaits me. This time, this historic estate lured me into its gracious embrace with a Chocolate and Wine pairing invitation.

Introduction

With hectares of unspoilt beauty and world-reknowned and significant architecture, a visit to Groot Constantia can only be celebrated. I’ve been more times than I can count on my two hands, and yet, the opportunity to return always fills me with a sense of wonder and appreciation.

It so happened that I was generously invited to indulge in their Chocolate and Wine pairing experience recently – who was I to say no to such a splendid summons? With balmy autumn days almost a thing of the past, I decided to dedicate a particularly leisurely Sunday morning to spending some time at Groot Constantia, all the while relishing in their exquisite wines.

Disclaimer: I visited Groot Contantia weeks before the current COVID lockdown restrictions were in place, when wine sales and on-site consumption thereof were allowed and legal. Masks were only safely removed for photographs and whilst eating/drinking.

Background

Groot Constantia is South Africa’s oldest wine farm, with an uninterrupted 336-year history of producing world-renowned wine. The estate is a Provincial Heritage Site and a living museum open to the public seven days a week, where guests can walk its historic vineyards on the Visitors Route, take a tour through the Cloete Cellar — the birthplace of the world-famous Grand Constance wine — and taste Groot Constantia’s many award-winning, hand-crafted wines.

Birthday celebrations

Did you know that this month Groot Constantia turns a momentous 336 years young? Unfortunately the current COVID regulations have put a damper on the planned week-long celebrations between 8 – 13 July for this big occasion, but as everything in Groot Constantia style, these will resume when it’s safe and legal to do so again. Timing is everything in life.

To read my blog about Groot Constantia’s 333rd year celebrations, please click here!

Conservation champions

In the early 2000s, the wine industry was growing rapidly and the vineyard footprint was expanding into highly-threatened conservation-worthy habitats.

With 95% of wine growing taking place in the unique habitat of the Cape winelands, WWF participates in a pioneering partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector – one that Groot Constantia is proud to be part of. These landowners commit to biodiversity-friendly and regenerative farming practices, conserve their natural areas and continually improve their water and energy efficiencies.

It’s no secret that Groot Constantia is one of the WWF’s proud Conservation Champions. The next time you are choosing wine, keep your eyes open for the distinctive sugarbird and protea logo on their wine bottles so you can make an informed choice to support our environmental wine leaders!

To learn more about WWF’s Conservation Champions initiative, please click here!

The venue

We arrived to the production cellar mid-morning. Adorned in its fanciest autumn colours, Groot Constantia was a show-stopping display of pre-winter luxury. The vines were almost bare, and the landscape has changed from vibrant shades of green to a deep amber glow. Already slightly buzzing from the breakfast crowd, there was a pleasant chatter drifting across the estate, inviting you to while away a few more hours in its company.

On arrival, we were met by a very suave young man, Xolisa, who offered to take Tim and myself on a quick tour of the cellar. Submersed in the colourful past of wine-making and the roots of Groot Constantia, we  made our way through the cellar slowly, with intent, soaking in the timelessness of their craft. An excellent guide, Xolisa settled us in at a table outside for our pairing as we concluded the tour.

The outside tables and benches under the colossal plane trees provide a safe space for meeting in intimate groups, whilst still indulging in a gorgeous little chocolate and wine treat. With ample of space for children (and adults!) to explore and play freely, we felt lighter for a few minutes, being able to breathe the fresh air and surround ourselves with the unspoilt beauty of Groot Constantia in the safest way possible.

Cloete Cellar

We also spent some time exploring the Cloete Cellar, Groot Constantia‘s original wine production cellar built in 1791. Recently converted into an uber-modern wine tasting centre, it’s a stunning mix of yesterday and contemporary.  Encompassed in its stately walls is a pocket-sized museum, perfect for wandering through whilst sipping on their wines. A definite must-see when you visit, as it offers a unique take on Groot Constantia‘s history, whilst availing all the amenities of a modern wine tasting facility to its guests.

Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, Cloete Cellar is currently only open certain days (depending on the level of restrictions) so please check before when planning your visit.

The chocolate and wine pairing

After a brief respite, Xolisa returned with our five hand-crafted chocolates and wines. Our pairing included the following:

Sauvignon Blanc with Tropical Guava white chocolate
Chardonnay with White Lime and Apricot chocolate
Pinotage with Blackberry milk chocolate
Shiraz with Secret Spices and Vanilla chocolate
Gouverneurs Reserve with Morello Cherry Tobacco dark chocolate

The combination of chocolate and wine is simply a thing of pure decadence; the echo of the aromas in the nose and on the palate, the harmony of crisp and velvety, the excitement of vibrant acidity next to layers of creaminess. The two white wine pairings were sublime, and I lingered extra long on my Chardonnay.

As we moved into the milk and dark chocolates, the red wines started to become bold and self-sufficient, although the pairings were still absolutely delectable. Carefully chosen to optimally enhance your wine tasting experience, I would recommend taking sufficient time to appreciate the combination of the chocolate and wine, but also to spend some time with each in its own right. The chocolates are packed with fresh flavour, wrapped in satin-smooth dairy, whilst the wines need little introduction as they continue to uphold centuries of wine-making traditions.

Bring the two together, and you are presented with a magical experience of true craftsmanship. And if that was not enough, Xolisa offered us the cherry on top: a sneaky sip of their world-famous and highly acclaimed Grande Constance 2017, a dream-like encounter that stayed with me long after we left.

The chocolate and wine pairing costs R150 pp, and is available weekdays at the first wine sales cellar (as you enter the estate), or at the top at the production cellar behind Simons Restaurant (in line with COVID restrictions).

An experience I would recommend everyone should try at least once, it’s so much more than just a chocolate and wine pairing. It’s a few hours of reprieve, whilst allowing yourself  to be leisurely submersed in the  hospitality of Groot Constantia and its people. With lush gardens, historical buildings, great eateries and some of the best wines you’ll ever find, there is truly a space for everyone to indulge, especially during these restricted pandemic times.

 

In conclusion

One of Cape Town’s (and the world’s!) most beloved destinations, Groot Constantia is truly exceptional from soil to people. All rooted deeply in tradition, heritage, love and history, there’s a certain feeling one feels when you spend any amount of time on the estate. It’s a feeling of pride, of togetherness, of wanderlust to learn and experience more every time.

Thank you, Groot Constantia, for providing a welcome haven for our residents and visitors alike, whilst keeping everyone exceptionally well wined, dined and celebrated.

Disclaimer: I was invited to this establishment as part of a trade exchange for my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated / credited, are also my own.

The Little Hedonist endorses responsible drinking.
Don’t drink and drive. Not for persons under 18.

*Documented with all current national COVID protocols and safety measures strictly adhered to.

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