Stellenbosch is one of South Africa's most established and internationally recognised winegrowing regions. Although its reputation is predominantly for world class Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux style blends, some wine producers are experimenting with Rhone style blends, and even Methode Cap Classique Sparkling wines. The family run Jordan Estate is one producer who is making premium wines in both classic and new styles. The Estate lies towards the east of the Stellenbosch area. From high up on the natural amphitheatre of the Estate's vineyards you can look further east to Cape Town and Table Mountain, and West back into the heart of Stellenbosch behind which looms the gigantic Stellenbosch mountain range. It's these jagged and ancient mountains that make the region one of immense beauty. Beautiful vistas do not make great wine, however, a fact that winemaker Gary Jordan (who studied geology before winemaking at UC Davis) is keenly aware of. The soils here are millennia older that those in California and Gary, alongside his wife Kathy, utilise this natural asset.
The vineyards at Jordan have been thoughtfully matched to specific grape varieties. For example, The 'Prospector', a smoky and meaty Rhone style Syrah, is planted in soils with unusually high deposits of tin. Besides the usual staple of Stellenbosch favourites (Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc) Jordan vinifies an outstanding slightly off-dry 'Real McCoy' Riesling from German Weisser clones - a rarity in the Cape, as most 'Riesling' is actually Crouchen Blanc, a high-yielding high-acid imposter. They make Chardonnay as a single varietal in three different styles, a delicately taut unoaked version, a partially barrel fermented and oak aged bottling, and their premium 'Nine Yards'- an opulently expressive iteration. The winemaking team consistently produce these benchmark serious-style wines, but also make a 'Chameleon Range', aimed at the affordable and easy-drinking side. A standout from this range is the Merlot/Syrah RosÃ©, a dry wine that speaks to a fresh slightly herbal Provencal style. The Jordans have recently acquired several acres of fallow land on the outskirts of the estate, where there are plans to plant the Greek native Assyrtiko, alongside other Mediterranean varieties.
The climate in Stellenbosch is influenced by a cooling southerly breeze arriving from False Bay. This ensures that the grapes in Stellenbosch ripen slowly - a prerequisite for the development of complex flavours in grapes. These factors make the prospect of growing Mediterranean varieties not only possible but exciting. The operations above-ground at Jordan are equally as ambitious as those deep in the vineyards. From its humble beginnings in the early 90s, Gary and Kathy have expanded the cellar and vineyard operations exponentially whilst still maintaining quality. They're also kept busy splitting their time between South Africa and the UK, where they are partners in the successful London restaurant High Timber. Furthermore, with the support of Jancis Robinson, Kathy set up the Women in Wine initiative that works to empower and mentor females in the wine industry.
While many Stellenbosch wineries have long histories dating to the period of Dutch settlement in the cape Jordan's is relatively new. As such their winemaking practices and facilities put emphasis on a modern approach to winemaking. The Jordan cellar is designed around a gravity-fed system, where 25 large conical fermentation tanks have been built into the cellar roof, in which all reds diligently undergo daily pump-overs. The winemaking team, led by long-serving head-winemaker Sjaak Nelson, is experimenting with small amounts of whole-berry, intracellular fermentation which assists in the extraction of colour and flavour, with less of the harsh tannins. For white wines, locally-sourced fermentation yeasts have been carefully selected to highlight various qualities of different vineyard blocks.
Jordan Estate is a producer of consistently benchmark wines from the Stellenbosch region. Their wines speak intimately to the ancient geological terroir of the area and the family that has made them.