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February 05, 2009

Celebrate the 350th year of South African wine

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Photo courtesy of Craig Wilson

South African wine celebrated its 350th birthday on Monday February 2 – and what better way to do it than with a series of lavish parties and luncheons at wine farms across Cape Town?

Thanks to Jan van Riebeeck, South Africa is one of the few “new world” wine producers to know the exact day on which its wines began to flow. The founder of the Dutch East India Company post at the Cape recorded the historic moment in his diary on February 2, 1659. He wrote: “Thanks be to God, today wine was pressed in the Cape for the first time.”

The Cape wine industry had its humble beginnings on the farm land of Cape Governor Simon van der Stel. Van der Stel named his estate after his daughter Constancia and following his death the farm was divided into the numerous wine estates which still exist in the valley today.

Groot Constantia, the oldest of the South African vineyards, celebrated the 350th anniversary with an exclusive luncheon at the manor house gardens, attended by numerous dignitaries and ambassadors.

Clarence Johnston, Executive Mayor of the Cape Winelands District Municipality, said at the ceremony: “We live and grow our wines in the most beautiful wine region in the world – the Cape Floral Kingdom. We are responsible in doing so, with sensitivity to our environment. In four short years, we’ve managed to conserve 1.1ha of fynbos for every hectare under vine.”

If you didn’t crack an invitation to that party, you still have a chance to get involved and celebrate this special occasion. The Constantia Valley Association is hosting “Crush on Constantia”, a garden party at the Cricket Oval at Constantia Uitsig Winery, on Sunday, February 8.

The party starts at 11h30 and tickets cost R150 per person. This includes two wine tastings, a goodie bag and live entertainment from local Constantia musicians, Camilla McDowell, Alicia Pam and the dance band Spectrum. Prestigious Constantia restaurants including Constantia Uitsig, the River Café and La Colombe will be selling their delicious eats at the event.

And if you are a fan of getting dressed up, then dig out your top hats, tea dresses and parasols to stand a chance of winning the prize for the best-dressed couple.

For more information contact jooles@constantiavalley.com.

If that’s not enough of a celebration, oenophiles can find a full listing of wine-related events at www.southafricanwine350.co.za/

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