The Groot Constantia heritage attributes a unique status to the Estate. Its early history and international recognition made Groot Constantia the first intellectual property of the South African wine industry and of the county at large.
In 1685, during an annual visit to the Cape, Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein granted the grounds of Groot Constantia to Simon van der Stel the VOC Governor of the Cape of Good Hope.
Van der Stel built the house and used the land to produce wine as well as other fruit and vegetables, and for cattle farming. Following Van der Stel’s death in 1712 the estate was broken up and sold in three parts: Groot Constantia; Klein Constantia; and Bergvliet.
In 1779 the portion of the estate including Van der Stel’s Cape Dutch-style manor house was sold to the Cloete family, who planted extensive vineyards and extended and improved the mansion by commissioning the architect Louis Michel Thibault. The wine cellar was added by Cloete in 1791. The house remained in the possession of the Cloete family until 1885, during which period the estate became famous for its production of Constantia dessert wine.
In 1885 Groot Constantia was purchased by the government of the Cape of Good Hope and was used as an experimental wine and agricultural estate. Following a disastrous fire in 1925 the house was extensively restored.