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Savouring Heritage: The Story of Constantia Royale

We spoke to winemaker Roger Burton as the farm’s unique tasting venue – a tunnel under Cape Town's M3 freeway – opens to the public

By Your Luxury
Roger Burton
Roger Burton

Nova Zonnestraal Estate is the oldest family-owned wine farm and equestrian yard in the historical Constantia Valley. The farm is steeped in heritage, dating back to the late 17th century when vines were first planted on the upper slopes of Wynberg (wine mountain). With its geographical location and cool climate, the area is still considered today as one of the world’s best winemaking regions.

Lynn Rowand with her dogs in the farm tunnel

After inheriting the farm, Lynn Rowand and her husband Don planted new vines in the hope of creating a Sauvignon Blanc that could be enjoyed by family and friends. However, Constantia Royale would outperform itself and is now recognised as one of South Africa’s best Sauvignons. The Sémillon cultivar also thrives here, and Constantia Royale Don’s Reserve, the farm’s second release, is a masterful Bordeaux-style blend made by winemaker Roger Burton. Named posthumously after Don and his vision for the farm, it has received great international acclaim.

Roger, tell us about Constantia Royale wines

At Nova Zonnestraal, we have both cool-climate terroir plus more sunlight hours than any other Constantia estate, giving the grapes a higher concentration of flavour without taking away too much acidity. The wines are serious and elegant, but very drinkable.

Earliest wine memory

My parents took me with them to the Stellenbosch Farmers Winery when I was about seven. I had a grape juice tasting and was given a portfolio of labels, which I treasured. My first drinking experience was at age 16 when I drank a lot of late-harvest box wine. I’m glad to say I’ve wisened up since then.

Career influence

I worked at Buitenverwachting not far from Nova Zonnestraal under the winemaker Hermann Kirschbaum. He was like a mad professor with the German precision to make technical wines, but he also knew how to have fun and be creative. Hermann had his own laboratory where we would test for protein stability or bacteria count. He influenced me big time.

Last drink you bought

Castle Milk Stout – I love it in winter! I recently had a bottle of Steenberg’s Catharina, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Eating out in Constantia

Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia – the food is genius and I feel like I’ve been on a two-week holiday when I leave.

In your downtime

Surfing, gardening, and reading. I’m most at home in the outdoors and my wife and I love camping.

Luxury to me

It appeals to a higher state of faculty and must excite the mind. I’m also drawn to small-scale luxury items that have a sense of the maker.

The tunnel at Nova Zonnestraal

It was originally built in 1965 under the M3 freeway in 1965 to re-join the Zonnestraal property that had been split by the road. While storing additional wine there, we realised it was a hidden gem that would make a perfect wine-tasting and function venue.

Constantia Royale Sauvignon Blanc 2022

Balanced, herbaceous, and fruity notes with a lingering aftertaste.

Serve with snoek pâté on bread or crackers.

Don’s Reserve 2022

A more austere sauvignon/sémillon blend that’ll keep for 10 years.

Serve with a garlicky, lemony mussel pot.

 Nova Zonnestraal is open for wine tastings on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11am- 4pm. The tunnel can be rented out for private functions. constantiaroyale.co.za

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