One balmy Saturday afternoon, we decided to go for a wine tasting at Groot Constantia, one of the oldest vineyards in South Africa. Part of the reason for going was because we figured the wines would be excellent (they are known for their reds) and because the Fodor's and Lonely Planet guidebooks said it’s a great place to bring your own picnic. We hopped in a taxi and arrived a short while later in Constantia.
As we pulled up, I noticed the building was quite large and there was a tour bus parked outside. Not a great sign, but we walked in to find the space open and airy. We went to the front desk to inquire about tastings and cellar tours. She told us there were no tours, and it was R30 (R5 more than the guidebooks) and gave us papers with a list of wines and a glass (which she neglected to tell us it was one we could take home!). We found a table and began to circle the five wines we’d like to taste. Then, we walked up to the bar, pointed to the first wine on our lists, and they poured a sample. No explanation, no history, just pouring and on to the next. While I did enjoy the wine, I have to say, this is the least interactive wine tasting I have ever been to, let alone paid for.
We stepped outside, and started to walk further into the Groot Constantia estate. It was a really lovely property, with a traditional Cape Dutch style house at the heart of it. At this point, we noticed many families picnicking on the lawns, but then noticed signs posted that say only picnics purchased at their restaurant, Jonkerhuis (R250 for two), were allowed. Again, disappointed, we took a few more photos and headed all the way back towards one of the main roads near the entrance of the estate. It was a lovely afternoon, but the experience and level of service did not meet my expectations for such a historic South African estate.