Competition in the wine world has never been fiercer. To be noticed takes an awful lot of effort; to be noticed on an ongoing basis requires imagination as well as effort and good planning.
When the Jordan family purchased their now eponymous farm in 1983, they took care to match variety to site, a practice they have followed when planting the additional land they’ve purchased over the years. Although no wine was released under the Jordan label until 10 years later, grapes were sold to other producers and Alphen, a Gilbeys brand (now the home of Kleine Zalze) gained an enviable reputation for their sauvignon blanc made from Jordan fruit.
It didn’t take long for Gary and Kathy Jordan to put their own wines on the map after they returned from California, crushing their first harvest in 1993. There’s a litany of awards that followed over the years, their consistency matched only by the wines’ quality. But today, quality alone doesn’t take you to the front of winelovers’ minds; there are too many wines as good as yours out there.
One of the smartest moves made by the Jordans was to associate their wines with dining. Firstly, by teaming up with fellow South African, Neleen Strauss and opening High Timber in London; this Thames-side restaurant has one of, if not the best range of South African wines in the UK. The Jordans and other wine producers frequently present wine dinners here, all well attended, so maintaining their own and South Africa’s wines in the spotlight. Back home, they enticed top chef, George Jardine, who ran his eponymous restaurant originally in Cape Town to their Stellenboschkloof farm. Today, as well as the restaurant, Jardine started The Bakery & Deli, where not only bread, but his home-cured meat and other delicacies are served either inside or on the deck, overlooking some of the winelands’ most spectacular views. The increased traffic has again helped to shine the spotlight on the wines and, subliminally focus on their quality.
Today, it’s also important that wines tell a story. Since their first 1993 vintage, the Jordans introduced a singularity to their labels by way of a title that had something to do with the farm; Chameleon in that first year – though the majority of the range carried just the varietal name. Like the range, so the names have increased: The Prospector Syrah, Cobblers Hill, Nine Yards Chardonnay, The Outlier Sauvignon Blanc and The Real McCoy Riesling among them.
Gary Jordan showed up the ignorance of the collective media present, when he asked: a) where was phylloxera first found in South Africa and b) who identified it? All round silence. ‘A vineyard in Mowbray,’ Jordan tells us. According to Tim James in his Wines of the New South Africa, it was noticed by the French Consul General; not unsurprising, given he’d have seen the same phenomenon in France. Péringuey, in his role as Inspector General of Vineyards, probably positively identified the disease. M. Péringuey was born in Bordeaux in 1855; he came to the Cape, via other African countries, in 1879 to teach French at both SACS and Bishops before taking up a position at the South African Museum, initially as a volunteer, then from 1884 permanently, working on Coleoptera (beetles). Shortly after, he was made Inspector of Vineyards. After identification of phylloxera, he supervised the importation of the louse-resistant American rootstock onto which the various varieties were grafted.
The Jordans decided on naming this chenin, which comes from their 32-year old and first plantings, after Inspector Péringuey ‘as one is a forgotten grape, the other a forgotten man.’ A great story that needed to be told and remembered.
It’s interesting that even though half the wine has been fermented in older, small oak barrels, it has a totally different profile to the other barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc. It’s much tighter, fresher, more vinous and less fruity, promising to mature well. It signals a positive shift in style – yet another talking point to keep Jordan Wines in the public eye.