It’s never easy to veer from the path your parents have mapped out for you. So you can imagine that the young Gary Jordan must have felt somewhat apprehensive when telling his father that he didn’t want to follow him into the family’s shoe business. Not least because the business had been so successful that it had allowed his father, Ted, to buy his dream estate in Stellenbosch.
Fortunately, he needn’t have worried.
‘Thank God,’ said Ted. ‘The bouquet of old wine is an awful lot better than the bouquet of old shoes.’
It was music to Gary’s ears. He and his wife Kathy had both studied at California’s ‘wine university,’ UC Davis, and they had big plans for the farm. Principal among them was making wines that bore the family name, rather than selling their fruit elsewhere.
The Cape’s first husband-and-wife winemaking team, their debut vintage was in 1993, three years after Nelson Mandela’s release from Robben Island. Within ten years they had established an impressive reputation, which endures to this day.
There has been continual development and refining of what is planted at Jordan. Currently, the main varieties are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc for the whites, and Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz for the reds. But the styles for which they are justifiably best-known are their Chardonnays and Bordeaux-blend reds – some of the Cape’s most reliable performers.
But things don’t stand still at Jordan. This year sees the release of their first Assyrtiko. Perhaps it’s Kathy’s Greek heritage, or perhaps it’s the logic of planting more heat-and-drought-resistant varieties in a place with the Cape’s climate and water issues; either way, the vines seem right at home.
Planted on the top of a sunny, 200m-high north-facing slope that is pummelled by the wind off False Bay, the vines can probably almost imagine they are back on Santorini – though here they are trained on wires, rather than wrapped round in a basket shape.
Despite being from such young vines, the Assyrtiko shows real promise; the perfect wine to sit with on a shaded terrace on a hot afternoon. Which, coincidentally, Jordan Estate is also able to provide.
Its restaurant (complete with leafy terrace) is one of the best in the winelands, and is a destination spot for Cape Town weekenders and sybaritic tourists alike. Handily, for those who are driving, they also have excellent accommodation just a 60-second walk from your table. Waking up to the squawking of native birds and the rustle of wind through the vines is a great start to any day.
Jordan Wine Estate – Four wines to try:
Nine Yards Chardonnay, Stellenbosch, 2022
Made the same way as the barrel-fermented Chardonnay, with pre-oxidation before fermentation, but from their best vineyard site and with a touch more oak. The result is a wine that’s richer and more brooding, with a structure that opens it up to serious ageing. Pineapples and nectarines, with a touch of grip, a dusting of spice and a tauter acidity. A genuine alternative to white Burgundy.
Drink 2025-2035 | Alcohol 13%
Cobblers Hill, Stellenbosch, 2018
Jordan’s deluxe Sophia red (particularly the superb 2017) is a top-class wine, but this four-way Bordeaux blend is nearly as good for a fraction of the price. Elegant powdery tannins effortlessly support dense layers of plum and black cherry fruit that resolve into a perfumed violet finish. Toned, ripe and seamless, it’s beautifully crafted.
Drink 2024-2040 | Alcohol 14%
Barrel-fermented Chardonnay, Stellenbosch, 2022
Jordan are renowned for their Chardonnays and this one from their Estate Varietals range shows why. It’s a winning combination of fleshy and toasty, of squashy peach and pineapple rolled in grilled hazelnuts and lightly squeezed with lime. There’s weight here, but no fatness. Precise – and excellent for the price.
Drink 2023-2030 | Alcohol 13%
Assyrtiko, Stellenbosch, 2022
From a harsh, dry, wind-blown site on top of a hill – not many grapes will thrive here, but Assyrtiko (from Santorini) clearly loves it. This wine has flavours of pomelo and lemon with a light herbal touch and a pithy texture. Racy and bright, it’s ridiculously good for three-year-old vines. A variety that clearly has a bright future here.
Drink 2023-2024 | Alcohol 13%
Discover more about Jordan Wine Estate
Read more about PIWOSA