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Jordan – Oh, the wine!

Jordan – Oh, the wine!
By James Bisset

Just as they were starting to wrap up their 2020 harvest, the good people of Jordan Winery – much like everyone else in the world – were left to confront the reality of a global pandemic and a nationwide lockdown.  

For a long and uncertain time, South Africa’s hastily introduced laws didn’t allow Jordan to trade. For a while, they weren’t even permitted to export their products and were staring at an extended period of economic uncertainty. So what did they do?

They donated thousands of bottles of fine wine to help save the local restaurant industry, also reeling under the effects of the restrictions.

They weren’t the only ones to do this. In fact, to date no less than 29 wineries have donated their wines, raising more than R5 million to save jobs and livelihoods. But Jordan was one of the first, and their contribution was especially significant.

 

This is just one of many anecdotes that paints Jordan winery in an exceptional light. Their estate, hidden at the end of the beautiful winding road in the heart of Stellenbosch wine country, is one of the most popular for local and international visitors. They boast a world class restaurant, and bakery, and tasting room, and…

And the wine. Oh, the wine!

 

They are stunning, both with the context provided and without it. They boast class, character and consistency. They are pure, fresh and flavourful. And they are all just a little bit surprising.  

Each wine true to its variety, but with an idiosyncratic edge that gives you pause to contemplate and question.

From Sauvignon Blanc vineyards that ripen later than most, the barrel fermented Outlier 2019 is a subtle and intriguing affair. Where many SB’s tend to punch you in the face with fruit and acidity, here you’re able to stop and smell the freshly mown grass while relaxing on your own tropical Island. It’s a joy for the senses, not an assault on them.

The Inspector Peringuey Chenin Blanc 2019 comes with a great story about Vineyard Inspector Louis Peringuey that I don’t fully remember. But he lead the fight against phylloxera, so good for him! Cape Chenin can express itself in many ways, and this is on the lean, focused and fresh end of the spectrum. Dangerously delicious and arguably not for sharing.

The Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2019 doesn’t have a special name, but don’t let that put you off. Complex and balanced with biscuits, orange fruit and a mineral core, this is a Chardonnay to get excited about.

The 2017 Long Fuse is a classic Stellenbosch Cabernet, but with it’s own identity. It comes fully loaded with big, dark fruit, but tempered by a wonderfully uplifting herbal quality. As with all Jordan wines there’s a racy acidity to make the wine especially more-ish now, but this wine will develop beautifully for years to come. 

With owners Gary and Kathy Jordan setting up vineyards in the UK, we met winemaker Sjaak Nelson on an idyllic Spring day, and saw first hand how impressive (and progressive) this winery is. They’re also willing to experiment, recently becoming the first South African producers to plant the Greek grape, Assyrtiko. Their thinking is that this grape, suited to dry, windy conditions, might well flourish in certain parts of the Cape. 

 

With Jordan’s vines sitting on slopes at different altitudes facing different directions, they are able to plant an assortment of varieties in conditions that they are adapted to. And their offering on the estate continues to grow, with overnight accommodation and a bike track the latest additions.

 

As we got up to visit the impressive cellar, I noticed that Sjaak was walking with a limp. I fully expected it to be a mountain bike injury, but it turns out Sjaak hurt himself while lifting and delivering boxes of wine, helping the team get rid of their backlog after South Africa’s lockdown restrictions were eased.

It was a case of all hands on deck, with every employee involved in deliveries so that their customers could receive their wine as soon as it was allowed.

After everything you’ve learnt about Jordan, that probably comes as no surprise.