With some tourists in tow, it seemed that the most obvious thing to do was to continue the great tradition of Cape Town tourism and head out down the Constantia Wine Route – once described as “one of the most underrated attractions in Cape Town”.
And some of it is.
Klein Constantia is always a pleasure to visit. Their easy-drinking “KC” Cab Sauv/Merlot wasn’t on offer today, but they had a ludicrously good red blend from 2008 with plenty of Petit Verdot and plenty of Cabernet Franc. The hostess was friendly and informative: no question was too big or small and we lingered longer because of it. The tasting was free and although we didn’t buy there, we went away knowing that we would looking for their stuff in the supermarkets and – in my parent’s case – at the local UK importer.
Compare and contrast this experience with “The Wine Shop” at Constantia Uitsig. Their tasting comes in at R25 a head and there was a distinct lack of engagement with the customers. We were given a tasting sheet and the wine was brought out, poured and taken away again. It was all a bit unfriendly, but having paid, we weren’t about to leave without at least trying the wines. That took time though, because the hostess was more interested in chatting to her friends behind the high desk. Thus, we found ourselves sitting and chatting about anything but wine while waiting for glasses to be refilled. I don’t think that’s going to help their sales much.
The final wine we tasted there was their dessert wine: Muscat d’Alexandrie. When it was poured, the hostess told us that it should never be served too cold as it ruined the taste, but that their bottle had been sitting next to the freezer and so was… er… too cold. Much like the rest of their selection – and the service there – it was very average and a big disappointment to the tourists in our party.
By this time, mildly delayed by the poor service, we were getting hungry, so we headed next door the The River Cafe. Things started well with some decent coffees, but it really degenerated into an absolute farce by the end. The waitress took the order, but didn’t put it into the system and so we watched as others arrived after us and tucked into their lunch. When we enquired about our food, we were told by manager that it would be about 5 minutes. Most of it eventually arrived about 10 minutes later with no apology. It was mostly pretty good, although the muffins were rock hard – like “unable to get through the crust with a knife” rock hard. For a one course meal to take 1½ hours is ridiculous and annoying. (To be charged for the bent knife was extremely irritating as well.)
Day seemingly ruined, we decided to brave Steenberg anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and looking on the bright side, it couldn’t be much worse, could it?
Well no – actually it was much better and restored our faith in our new shorter version of the Constantia Wine Route, which now bypasses Uitsig completely, save for raising a middle finger as you drive past it. At Steenberg, we got a free and informative cellar tour from Graham and then the charming and hugely enthusiastic Zelda took us through their selection. You could see that there was a pride and a passion in their work and it really mended our broken day. The wines were pretty good as well – even the whites and I don’t really like whites. But it was their 2008 Shiraz that finished off my day completely.
Wow – I got pepper, I got spice, I got flavour. I got quite, quite pissed. Is nice.
So – here’s another 6000 Recommends… tip: if you’re going to do the Constantia Wine Route, don’t do Constantia Uitsig. But do do Klein Constantia and Steenberg.
And then go back and do them again.
Simple as that.