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PIWOSA producer profile: The Drift Estate

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At the southern end of the Overberg valley, halfway up the southernmost mountain range in South Africa and only a few miles from the ocean, The Drift Estate is producing fantastically varied wines.

Bruce Jack, it’s safe to say, is not like most winemakers. As a profession, cellarmasters tend to be reluctant to talk about much outside their sphere of expertise, coming alive when the conversation turns to viticulture or winemaking techniques – often the more arcane the better.

Jack, however, is pretty much the opposite. Time in his presence can cover anything from politics to African history, the correct way to serve tea and the joys of print media. Getting him to talk about wine at all is something of an effort, and even then it comes with frequent high-speed digressions into wineland folklore. These stories can be sad, funny or educational – but never boring.

Jack trained as a winemaker at Australia’s famous Roseworthy college, which produced a generation of top winemakers who transformed the wine world in the 1990s. Like many of them, he’s happy to travel the globe, and makes wine in Spain and Chile and has four different wine ranges in South Africa.

He freely admits that the cheaper, bigger-volume ranges from outside the Cape are what allow him to play, experiment and – you suspect – scratch his creative itch with, for instance, the wines from Drift Estate and his brilliantly labelled Ghost in the Machine range.


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The farm was bought by Jack’s father, who wanted to retire somewhere where he ‘couldn’t see the lights of his neighbours’ farm at night, but which was two hours from an international airport.’ Jack searched all over the world for just such a spot, before settling on this 200-hectare estate in the Overberg Highlands.

About 50km north of Elim, at the southernmost tip of Africa, it’s remote and quiet, the vast spaces filled in the summer by gently whispering wheat. While still close to the Atlantic (which meets the Indian Ocean just a bit further along the coast), it’s also high, at 500m above sea level.

Initial plantings saw a lot of experimentation – everything from Malbec and Tannat to Barbera and Touriga Nacional. ‘But we now know what this farm will excel at,’ beams Jack. ‘Early-ripening varieties like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The only late-ripener that works here is Shiraz. There’s an elegance. You can’t push fruit here.’


The Drift Estate – Four wines to try:

Ghost in the Machine Shiraz, Western Cape, 2021

It’s almost worth buying the Ghost in the Machine wines just for the labels, which are, apparently, all unique. That said, this estate offering has beautiful perfumed red fruit, with white pepper and a drop of Worcestershire sauce spice. Powdery tannins and silky fruit, succulent and yet sapid – it’s proof of the potential of Syrah in this region.
93 points
Drink 2023-2034 | Alcohol 12%

The Drift Estate Moveable Feast, Overberg, 2019

Bruce Jack says this blend of Syrah and Malbec (plus about a fifth Tannat and Touriga Nacional) is about ‘capturing the essence of this part of the universe’. It’s a powerful concentration of damsons, blackberries and red cherries with a dusting of Christmas spices, nuts and violets in a firm structure. Very definitely one for the future – cellar for 10 years if you can.
92 points
Drink 2033-2050 | Alcohol 13.5%

The Berrio Sauvignon Blanc, Elim, 2021

Named after Vasco da Gama’s ship, which sailed around the cape in 1497, the Berrio is one of South Africa’s most famous Sauvignons. And is now (as of this vintage) being made by the original team once more. It’s a taut, pointed expression – all privet, green tea and gunflint, with a scattering of gooseberries on the top. Very ageable.
92 points
Drink
2023-2033 |
Alcohol 13%

The Drift Estate Penelope MCC, Overberg, 2019

There is not a lot of the Portuguese red grape Touriga Franca planted in the Cape, and even less of it gets made into MCC (Methode Cap Classique). But perhaps it should. This fizz has already spent four years on lees, but still has plenty of attractive red cherry fruit and rhubarb on the nose, with a light wafery grip and saltiness on the palate.
90 points
Drink 2023-2030 | Alcohol 12.5%


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