For me the journey of wine began in in earnest in 2018, when I started to study the WSET courses in London but it actually started in my home town of Stellenbosch many years ago and until 2018 had been sleeping. Like all South Africans I am very proud of my heritage and proud to be a springbok in our colours of green and gold. Our landscape, seas and sunsets are enviable and they always leave one wanting more. My father, David loved Africa and when he passed away the passion for viticulture and winemaking which had been dormant in me, woke up.
My first harvest was in Bordeaux with Dawn Jones-Cooper at Chateau De Monfaucon. The days would start around 7am and were filled with physical team work. As a small farm, the tasks are shared and varied. Ranging from picking early in the morning, to weighing and sorting to ensure only the best grapes go into the press. Cleaning! 60% of making a premium wine is ensuring the enviroment the grapes and juice are in is pristine. The days start and end with the rigorous cleaning process. It is a sticky, messy and dirty day and you learn fast the importance and beauty of community.
I loved it and following the experience applied to do a three month internship with Jordan Wine Estate back home in Stellenbosch. In January 2022 I arrived at the Jordan Estate and moved into my beautiful cottage which would be my home for the duration of my internship. A gorgeous little spot with a stoep (verandah in english) covered in purple bourgonvillia and shared with my roommate and fellow intern, Trudie. In the height of the african summer, a harvest day starts very early at 6am each day.
There are multiple phases and tasks involved in the whole process of winemaking. During the first few weeks, a typical day was spent cleaning equipment, taking samples from the vineyards, and ensuring that all tools worked properly. As the harvest ramps up the tasks become specialised and varied. You are taught as part of the winemaking team to develop your mindset as a winemaker. To think about the wines you want to create.
Depending on the winery team and production size, as a harvest intern, you may be assigned to repeat the same job every day, such as measuring the Balling (sugar content) of every tank. Racking the juice, filtering the lees for white wines and pump overs for the reds.
Besides saving on a gym membership and working 10-15 hour days. Six to seven days a week.
Discipline, stamina, communication and adaptability are key skills here and for those who don’t remain in the industry the experience renews and hones these skills to be transferred elsewhere. Harvest pushes you to your physical, mental, and emotional limits. I've learned that I'm nothing without my team. The grapes, yeast, and other forces of nature are in control of the timeline here. No matter what happens (a viral pandemic, wildfires, extreme heat), the show has to go on!
The cellar at Jordan is state-of-the-art, practical and functional. The cellar is designed around a gravity flow system using natural cooling through recessing the cellar into the slope of the mountain. Stainless steel fermentation tanks, varying in capacity, enable fruit from individual vineyards to be vinified separately. Tanks are jacketed with cooling bands to ensure controlled fermentation and storage temperatures. The barrel-fermented white wines are made according to Classic Burgundian methods. Fermentation takes place in the coolest area of the underground cellar. Separate barrel cellars are designated for Merlot,
Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz where the wines mature and undergo malolactic fermentation in Bordeaux-shaped barrels.
Careful management of the farms resources ensure everything is used and nothing wasted from innovative canopy management to selecting varieties and clones specifically suited to the various soils and slopes. The Jordan slopes face North, South, East, and West, with vineyards lying at differing altitudes from 160 to 410 m above sea level. The vineyards with their close proximity to both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans benefit from coastal fog and cool breezes. A mild Mediterranean climate with a maritime influence minimizes the risk of frost damage. The soils at Jordan have evolved from 600 million-year-old Cape Granite, and range from deep, well-drained clay-loam to gravelly and sandy duplex soils situated on clay.
My favourite red wine is Sophia which grows on the west facing slopes. The afternoon sun ripens the red grape varieties perfectly whilst retaining the refreshing acidity which is helped along by the Atlantic Ocean breeze. Mineral-rich soils and tin-bearing gravels provide the texture in the wines from this slope. My favourite white wine is Nine Yards Chardonnay which grows on the east facing slopes. The rare east-facing aspects are carefully nurtured by the cooler morning sun. Partly defined by seams of white quartz stones and black tourmaline-rich granite interspersed between the vines.