Groot Constantia Wine Estate has launched a stunning Wine & Gift Shop in their recently redesigned tasting room that celebrates all things local while showcasing a host of carefully selected items by talented Cape-based and South African artists, designers and craftsmen.
I sat down with Groot Constantia’s Sales & Marketing Manager Lila Jutzen, and PR & Events Coordinator Karen Woodcock to learn more about the process that led to the opening of the shop, the concept behind it, what guides the selection and curation of products – and the ethos that is so prevalent across all aspects of Groot Constantia.
Conceptualising the Groot Constantia Wine & Gift Shop
The shop in the redesigned tasting room, the first building on the right as you enter the property, is owned and managed by Groot Constantia. Groot Constantia teamed up with Platform Creative, an award-winning agency that specialises in the curation of South African lifestyle arts and is known to create unique experiences that drive sustainable growth and social progress, to assist with sourcing exactly the right products. Platform Creative have the likes of the Zeitz MOCAA’s gift shop under their skilful care, making Groot Constantia a further natural fit and the collaboration perfectly matched.
The brief was to create a specialist retail space where the estate’s wine products would be complemented by a range of design and decor pieces and gifts that visitors would want to take home with them. An elegant line of the best the area has to offer, produced by both emerging and well-established artists and craftsmen from Cape Town, and in some cases, beyond. Lila and Karen worked closely with the team to bring to life their shared vision, knowing that both the building and space needed a consciously considered revamp that would see them moving into the future as an established 300-year-old brand looking towards a future that is fresh, in touch and connected.
In the past, this space had held a limited selection of items for sale, mostly wine-related goodies such as branded bottle openers, decanters, corkscrews and ‘Hands of Hope’ cooler bags (still in stock) that could easily be included in a wine purchase. But the rather casual and eclectic mix of items had never been the focus. The team now believed that the time had come to change that, but just as approvals came through, Covid hit and plans were put on hold for a while – not coming into fruition for almost a year. The newly revamped space then opened on 16 December 2020 with a dreamy and carefully curated gift shop that is dedicated and focused – one of the best I’ve seen.
Proudly African to match one of the oldest wine trademarks in the world, it offers an array of brands with similar values, all locally located, homegrown and aligned to the sustainable philosophy of Groot Constantia. They naturally come together in one space where they are being supported by guests and travellers who visit the farm. Or simply by Capetonians that include the gift shop as a delightful add-on for themselves to browse and seek out collectables.
Some of the items on sale include ceramics from Mervyn Gers – whose Groot Constantia plates are a triumph, Clementina van der Walt and Gemma Orkin; jewellery by Kioni, Skermunkil, Pichulik and Purely Porcelain; textiles by African Jacquard and Skinny laMinx; Ngwenya Glass glassware; stylish dog leashes and collars from Chommies; chicken-bowl egg holders and decorative telephone-wire dogs by Tavengwa Dahwa, and so much more. See more below.
Connecting the Artists with the Land
Just pre-Covid with a shortlist of creatives that would feature their ware in the gift shop, Groot Constantia invited them to spend time on the farm and take inspiration from the surroundings, with the idea that they would find some ideas and create unique pieces that could be incorporated into their work. After a guided walkabout, wine tasting and history tour, they were encouraged to spend time connecting with the land and finding inspiration from the experience. This feel of the farm, the mountains, fauna and flora further connected them to the project.
Of the items created especially for the shop are Simply Porcelain’s dainty handmade acorn earrings, only available at Groot Constantia. Nyengwa glass created penguin and whales bottle stops that tie in with the relationship with Big 6 Cape Town and whale watching off the coastline. There are also the adorable little squirrels by Peta Becker. Thought, care and the finer details that are distinctly Groot Constantia. The shop is intent on forging relationships that will see producers showing their ware for the next years to come, and this has certainly been one way of achieving this.
In the gift shop, the goods are categorised as follows: Pantry, which is olives, homemade sweets, craft chocolate, nuts, honey and more. Homewear; Wine-related; Clothing, Scarves and Bags; Bath and Body; Jewellery and Accessories; Outdoor and Pets; Kids and Impulse – that’s me. All are incredible and when perusing the collectables there’s a sense of how lucky we are that such a fine selection, each with a story, has been made on our behalf. A natural sustainable theme exists across the range.
As much as the historic tours and tasting, restaurants, adorable ducks, and walks are up at the top, or the ‘heart’ of the farm, this gorgeous old building has been renovated and painted in the most inviting shade of green that’s called ‘South Side Moss’. It is seeing couples, friends and groups coming by for wine tastings and offers more space to those concerned about social distancing.
Attracting support from the local and domestic market, the products are reasonably priced, and you are encouraged to pop in for a walk around or to buy a gift – maybe even for yourself. Of course, staying for a wine tasting, coffee or meal would make perfect sense too. The shop and the items stocked bring a fresh approach to this iconic Cape Town establishment that now has a touch of modernity and newly forged relationships with the local creative community taking it into the future.
The future is local, and it’s never been more important to encourage people to buy local products. The mementoes and gifts bought here support small businesses and local communities and help in reducing unemployment. Plus, you get to have something remarkable with a story to call your own.
Wine and its making remain a key focus at Groot Constantia and the shop stocks a full range of the varieties and vintages that are available for tasting, as well as a few special bottles that aren’t. See more here.
These are some of the exceptional items that really stood out to me.
Above, the coveted Groot Constantia plate by Mervyn Gers.
Below, Tavengwa Dahwa’s variety of wire animals and decorative items from keyrings and paper clips to the very popular chicken baskets and protea flower candle holders. Tavengwa uses a variety of colourful telephone wire to mould his creations. The dogs are so gorgeous and filled with character, I’m sure he would make them as a match to your own if requested.
The name ‘Chommies’ is South African slang for ‘Friends’, which sums up the brand as their products connect humans and animals alike with their beautiful handcrafted dog collars and leads. Throughout the process of production, Chommies strives to connect people with the products they buy, the artisans who make them and of course to the beautiful animals who will wear them. Every Chommies product is handcrafted by talented artisans with materials locally sourced, from the ropes to the brass finishing. The brainchild of couple Zac and Nathalie, who aptly met while out walking their dogs. They have a fantastic eye for design and trends, complemented by a passion for people and business. Plus, your pups will love them and be the envy at the park!
The PICHULIK pieces are imagined and designed by Creative Director and Founder, Katherine-Mary Pichulik. Inspired by traditional African artistry and PICHULIK’s passion for honouring the sacred feminine, the items are handmade from organic materials into unique forms with powerful messages. PICHULIK employs women, collaborates with women, and sources from small, local women-owned businesses, to promote job creation and economic activity in local communities, and champion women empowerment. They are said to ‘represent a talisman imbued with mythology and symbolism’. I have a bracelet that I proudly wear and always get complimented on, they make a lovely addition to any outfit, night or day, and wearing them feels a little like wearing goodness.
A design-based fair trade initiative working under the direction of Peta Becker who has provided ongoing skills training to the 25 women from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Congo and South Africa that she employs. They have been working together since 2006 to constantly upgrade their skill levels and meet increasingly ambitious projects. Using 100% cotton and linen, they focus on providing lively contemporary design, which retains a strong African feel, with their special contribution to the Groot Constantia shop being the little squirrels with their acorns.
Taking pride of place in the ‘Bath and Body’ category are the O’live Handmade Soaps, created by the husband and wife team, Sipho and Zikhona Tefu, who are passionate about reducing the number of chemicals and synthetics people unwittingly use on their skin. Their mission is to create organic and natural, handmade skincare goodness. They started making natural organic handmade soap in their kitchen with a batch of just under 10 soaps as they consciously moved towards a more natural lifestyle – and to relieve our daughter’s eczema. Now they make hundreds of natural organic handmade soaps per day. Shortly after the first batch, Zikhona started sourcing olive oil, and pure essential oils from local farmers, as well as unrefined raw shea butter from Ghana. These are true quality products that leave your skin feeling like silk – and much healthier too.
Below is a fabric bowl cover that I love. Created by Helen Melon, who uses the finest fabrics and eco inks to digitally print and then sew them with love.
Gemma Orkin is a talented ceramicist who has hand-drawn bountiful fruits, playful birds and adorable dogs on her plates, platters, bowls and mugs for years and has now created a range of ‘quinces and pomegranate’ themed items especially fore th Groot Constantia shop.
These Kavango baskets are from DESIGN AFRIKA, which specialises in finely crafted hand-woven basketry and have developed close relationships with rural weaving communities across Africa. Through the global marketing of the work of these weavers, mostly women in rural areas, they help develop their economic independence while ensuring that their important traditional skills are not lost. I believe you can never have enough baskets, and the ones below would make ideal laptop carrying handbags, while the smaller ones are perfect for carrying your wine to a picnic.
Skinny laMinx by Heather Moore create simple, clean pattern designs that are inspired by a love of midcentury style and a dose of African chic. In 2007 Heather started screenprinting her patterns onto fabric, just for fun, and before she knew it her hobby had become a business and the things she designed could be found in stores and homes around the globe. The acorn theme lives strong here too, as can be seen in these lovely napkins.
The Barrydale Hand Weavers were born of a conscious desire to slow down, and it’s this that’s allowed them to take a uniquely considered approach to their crafts. They remain concerned not only with the preservation of an ancient process that results in beautiful products but also in the empowerment, employment and skills development of the team – because that’s where they rightly say, the future lies. I’ve had their products as part of my home for at least a decade and am thrilled to know I can now find them here.
After my chat with Lila and Karen I took some time to walk around the shop and take a closer look at the items on sale before heading home. I couldn’t resist and purchased a few things, namely Chantal – Ten Green Bottle glass wind chimes, a pair of Kioni earings for my daughter, an ochre coloured beeded necklace I could no longer live without and a bunch of goodies from the pantry section.
I know I’ll be back for more as I regularly visit Groot Constantia for walks with friends and this will simply become a welcome extension of that experience. I encourage you to do the same. Also when next looking for a gift, are on the farm for a meal, wine tasting – or simply need some feel good inspiration. The Groot Constatnia team have created magic here, and I wish them ever sucess with it – and more.
Read my Big 6, Little 6 article on the Groot Constantia blog.
More about Groot Constantia and what it offers
South Africa’s oldest wine-producing farm, Groot Constantia has been operating since 1685 and is an important part of World Wine Heritage. A world-class international tourism destination that captures the rich and diverse heritage of South Africa, delivering a unique cultural, social and historical experience to locals and tourists alike. After a history of more than 300 years, Groot Constantia remains a fully operational farm and one of South Africa’s most visited tourist attractions.
With a variety of other attractions, including The Jonkershuis and Simon’s Restaurants, the original Cape Dutch Manor House and famed Cloete Cellar: the birthplace of Grand Constance, a visit to Groot Constantia guarantees an unforgettable experience. South Africa’s oldest wine produced on the farm became so renowned it appears in Jane Austen’s novel ‘Sense and Sensibility’ as a cure for a broken heart and is drunk to lift a character’s spirit in ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ by Charles Dickens. It is believed to have even soothed Napoleon as it was served during his exile on the island of Saint Helena.
On your visit, pause for a coffee or light snack under the oak trees, take a walk around the farm and past the trellised vineyards, visit the historic buildings and enjoy a tutored wine tasting or pairing. And of course, visit the shop for some retail therapy. It really is a very special place that somehow feels very much like it belongs to us all.
The Essential Details
The Groot Constantia Shop is inside the revamped and revitalised tasting room on the Estate, the first building on the right after entering. It is open each day from 10am to 6pm. For more information visit www.grootconstantia.co.za, call +27 21 7945128 or email [email protected] Otherwise, why don’t you just pop over for some time walking around and getting familiar, it’s well worth it!
To quote Groot Constantia: ‘It takes years to build a Legacy. Even Decades. Or sometimes Centuries.’ and building they still are.
Groot Constantia is a member of Cape Town’s Big 6. One destination, six unforgettable experiences. A collective that celebrates the Mother City’s unique variety of attractions and interests – for more see http://ctbig6.co.za
Read my Groot Constantia Leaders in Sustainable Winemaking post.
** Thank you to Carmen Lerm of Fusion Design for making this post possible, and to Lila and Karen for your time and insight. What a treat to spend the morning with you both.