The Future of South Africa’s Oldest Wine Farm: Groot Constantia’s Winemaker Daniel Keulder. 

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Daniel Keulder, the recently appointed winemaker at Groot Constantia, offers insight into what lies ahead for South Africa’s oldest and most beloved wine producer.

Raised in the Swartland, just an hour or so from Cape Town, Daniel developed an early interest in wine after being introduced to Bukettraube’s delicate muscat flavours while a boy. As the rare cultivar lingered on his young palate it left a lasting impression, likely setting the trajectory for his life in motion and sparking Keulder’s desire to one day produce his own wines. At around the same time, Daniel was introduced to Groot Constantia through the evocative words of Afrikaans author Karl Kielblock, who brought the romance of the valley and its history to life. The intrigue prompted a family visit to the farm which inspired visions of a future where Groot Constantia was home. Unbeknownst to Daniel at the time, the farm was indeed very much inscribed in his destiny.

Preserving the Legacy

Groot Constantia dates back to 1685 when Simon van der Stel, Dutch Governor of the Cape at the time, established South Africa’s first wine farm and launched what would become the country’s commercial wine industry. It soon rose to fame and Emperors and Kings such as Frederick the Great of Prussia and Louis Philippe (King of the French) were buying ‘Constantia Wyn’ at auctions across Europe. The wine appears in Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility as a cure for a broken heart and in Charles Dickens’ story The Mystery of Edwin Drood as a means of lifting a character’s spirits. Markedly it possibly soothed Napoleon’s spirit while he was exiled to St Helena as he is known to have consumed at least a bottle a day, requesting ‘Vin de Constance’ – the wine of Constantia – on his deathbed.

Over the centuries, the farm underwent transition and change under various owners and influences, and with an uninterrupted record of wine production amassed countless awards and accolades. The heritage site and living museum were transferred to the Not for Profit Groot Constantia Trust in 1993 to preserve and maintain the land for posterity. Acknowledged as an environmental leader in the wine industry, the farm’s commitment to conservation and responsible practices is a vital part of the brand’s ethos. The trust model fosters a warm sense of ownership among Capetonians and international visitors who frequent the farm for walks and to linger at the restaurants and coffee shop, visit the museum, tasting room and remarkable gift store. One of Cape Town’s Big 6 attractions, it should be on all holiday itineraries.

Unveiling the Future

Into the future. Daniel pursued his interest in winemaking, studying Viti-and Viniculture at Stellenbosch University and earning a Master’s in Wine Chemistry. He chose to broaden his horizons post-studies, moving to the UK and joining a microbrewery for a three-year stint during which he delved into the intricacies of the fermentation process and artisanal production models. This experience not only honed his skills as a brewer and chemist but also provided a comprehensive understanding of the process from conception to sales and reputation management.

Soon he’d be yearning for South Africa, returning in 2009 and taking up the position of Assistant Winemaker at Groot Constantia – a dream realised. Working under the mastery of Boela Gerber, who had headed up the cellar since 2001, Daniel was soon consumed by the sense of home Groot Constantia awarded him, and the pleasure of being part of the team producing its famed wines. During this time Daniel met his wife Julie on the farm, further affirming his belief that Groot Constantia held his future.

Formative years ensued as Daniel learned the intricacies of the vineyards and cultivars, and garnered a deeper understanding of their geography and the influence of the two oceans between which the farm is set. The Constantia Valley had captured Daniel’sheart, but he recognised that there was more to learn before settling and with five years under his belt, he opted to refine his skills and creativity at small production vineyards, one being Nitida in Durbanville where he was winemaker from 2014 to 2020. 

Keulder has amassed an impressive collection of accolades over his career including Diners Club Winemaker of the Year, the Michael Angelo Trophy for best Pinot Noir, and the Chardonnay du Monde ‘Best Wine At Show’ Award for Groot Constantia’s 2013 Chardonnay. He is making his mark on the South African winemaking industry, and when presented with the opportunity to return to Groot Constantia in late 2023, this time as winemaker, he knew the time was right to commit to the long haul.

Shaping The New Harvest

Daniel looks forward to blending tradition with innovation, acknowledging the weight of the farm’s legacy that’s lightly settled on his shoulders. Far from a burden for this winemaker though, but rather a source of pride and inspiration that motivates him to produce the quality wine that has long defined Groot Constantia. Living on the farm with his family further connects him to the land. From here he observes the vine’s growth process and with his competent team oversees their well-being from soil to cellar. 

Recognising winemaking as a form of alchemy—a blend of creativity and scientific-based immersion with a touch of considered risk, his vision, dedication and hands-on approach promise to shape the future of the farm’s wine production. Guided by its history and the hard work of the farmers and winemakers who came before him and with gentle determination, Daniel will spend as much time as possible working alongside his team and in constant communication with Floricius Beukes, the Viticulturist and Estate Manager who can be credited with Groot Constantia’s impressive condition and sustainable practices. Daniel’s mantra reads – ‘footsteps are the best fertilisers for any project’ – and you will spot him walking the vineyards most evenings, likely with his faithful dog, connecting with the earth – and nature.

This is an extremely exciting new era for Groot Constantia and we should keep an eye on the newly appointed visionary winemaker who is now written into its history. The coming decade holds much promise for South Africa’s oldest wine farm – and the new wines to be meticulously produced there.

What should you be drinking in 2024? 

The deliciously moreish Groot Constantia Estate Chardonnay, the flagship Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve Red, and Grand Constance with its liquid amber colour produced from Muscat grapes sun-ripened on the vines, pressed, fermented and aged in oak.

Groot Constantia
Groot Constantia
Groot Constantia
Groot Constantia
Groot Constantia
Groot Constantia
Groot Constantia
All images are supplied by Groot Constantia.

Read more at Groot Constantia Wine Farm. This article first appeared in YourLuxury Travel.

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