Behind the Label with Kathy and Gary Jordan

Kathy and Gary Jordan, owners of the Jordan Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, came to visit us in person at Standlake HQ the other day. Whether we we were in the room, Zooming along in the shops or watching the recording later (as I did), this tasting was a delight and revelation.

Why revelation? Because South Africa, although wine has been made there for hundreds of years, still feels a bit of an insiders’ secret for quality. And boy did these Jordan wines deliver! As for delight, well…

We started with a bit of a tour of the estate, acquired by Gary’s dad back in the 1980s (derelict then, super-smart now). “It’s a bit like four farms put together”, Gary explained, because the slopes face in all possible directions. So (remember we are in the Southern hemisphere, so everything is back-to-front) Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin grows on the cooler South-facing slopes, Cabernet Sauvignon on the warmer North-facing, Chardonnay and Merlot enjoy the morning sun on the East-facing slopes and Syrah gets the evening sun on those facing West. Gary’s background in geology also contributes to expert matching of grape variety to location.

Our first wine was the Chameleon Dry Rose 2020. Merlot and Syrah are harvested early to retain freshness and keep alcohol levels relatively low (13%). The colour is a rich salmon pink that one might mistakenly associate with sweetness – no, this is dry. Fruity (strawberry, cherry), creamy, but definitely dry. A classy and versatile drop that would please a wide range of palates and happily go through from aperitif to lighter dishes.

Moving on to the three whites. The Real McCoy Riesling 2020 is mostly from estate grapes, supplemented by those from neighbouring Elgin and Hemel en Aarde. Immediately we get the characteristic hint of petrol on the nose. On the palate it is dry, with delicious fresh lime, and the complex honeyed savouriness that you find in rainforest honey. I was imagining scallop ceviche with this. Yum.

Two Chardonnays followed – Barrel Fermented 2019 and Nine Yards 2020. They were clearly cousins. Redolent of ripe fruit and cool chalky caves, creamy, with a lovely long finish. Clove/bay/basil oil on the nose suggested a match with soupe au pistou or a white bean soup slicked with truffle oil.  Both a beautiful balance of fruit and unobtrusive oak, the Nine Yards is more intense, more complex. What stunners!

Now on to the reds. The Prospector single vineyard Syrah 2018, a masterpiece of subtlety. Surprisingly light bodied, lightly grippy, ripe plum and sour cherry on the palate, with aromatic herbs and peppery spice evident but not obtrusive. Serious yet charming. This would be great with baked aubergines, baba ganoush, moussaka and heavenly with lamb and rosemary kebabs.

And finally, Jordan’s Cobbler’s Hill 2017. A Bordeaux blend (the proportions of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot vary year by year. They are separately fermented, aged for 12 months in barrel, blended, further aged for 12 months until release). The result has a lithe muscularity, perfectly poised blackberry, bramble, plum, cedar, clove and most notably fine-grained tannin that supports the fruit without elbowing its way to the front (I hate that!). The finish is long, with lingering spice and dark fruit. It is most approachable now, but will certainly age well with this fruit and structure. Steak or game would be a great match for carnivores, and for veggies, I’m thinking the bitterness of brassicas, the umami of mushrooms, the sweetness of leeks or onions. Very pleased to report Cobbler’s Hill will be added to our offering soon