The Thursday Club, hosted by Sandy Bailey, is a group of bibliophiles who regularly attend book launches at the Buitenverwagting Wine Farm in Constantia to enjoy delicious food, wonderful wines and to have the honour of meeting authors up close and personal. I have had the pleasure of attending the last three of these launches and I shall be posting articles of the releases. I have chosen Constantia and its Neighbours as the first post, as this book will give those abroad a taste of South Africa’s rich history.
Dr Helen Robinson is an inspiring 80-something South African historian and author who has written numerous books about the magical areas of Wynberg and Constantia, prolific wine-growing regions within Cape Town’s city limits. Some of Dr Robinson’s other books include: Beyond the City Limits – People and Property at Wynberg (her PhD thesis), Wynberg – a Special Place, The Villages of the Liesbeeck and The Trovato Link, her first novel. Dr Robinson’s impeccable research traces the ownership of these estates, however, it is her telling of the characters of the people involved that lend the history a human perspective that readers can relate to.
When asked whether she had another book in mind, Dr Robinson stated that she had gathered so much material over the years about the Cape Peninsula, that a new book was, in effect, writing itself. She is therefore currently working on a book about the Cape ‘over the mountain’ (Capetonians frequently use the Table Mountain range as a means of description or direction).
She says the book will focus on history of the coastline from Hout Bay to Fish Hoek and all the villages in between. I, for one, will certainly be at the launch. Dr Robinson is a charming author with a wonderful sense of humour and an eye for historical anecdotes that had us laughing out loud (in between sips of fabulous wine from the Buitenverwachting cellar).
The Book: Constantia and Its Surrounds
This exquisite coffee-table book traces the history of the Groot Constantia farm initially owned by Simon van der Stel, a Dutch settler who settled in the Cape in 1679, to the modern day wine farm that it now is.
Dr Robinson relates the story of the people of Constantia, free men and women, slaves and their descendents, immigrants and exiles, who have contributed to the international reputation of Constantia wines today. These people were neighbours and frequently related by marriage, which created a complex pattern of co-operation and obligation, but also gave rise to competition as the wine estates developed and newcomers entered the Constantia Valley.
The author has meticulously followed the history of the original farm and the subsequent transfer or division of land into other farms which also became famous for their wines, one of which is Buitenverwachting, the venue for the book launch.
The book is wonderfully colourful, both in photographs and in the history of the region and its peoples. It is the perfect gift for proud Capetonians and for visitors to Cape Town who love history, wine-making and South Africa.