Thursday, February 28, 2019

Tasting Greek Assyrtiko wines at Jordan wine estate, Stellenbosch

With rises in temperature in wine areas worldwide now 2 to 2.5% higher, farms are looking at dry land grapes that can tolerate heat. We are not France, so continuing to grow delicate grapes that need cool growing conditions long term is something farmers are having to take into account. Even France is becoming warmer and getting higher alcohols in their wines. Gary and Kathy Jordan at Jordan bought some more land a few years ago. It appears to be perfect for the Assyrtiko grape, grown mostly in Greece, which performs well in a high altitude stony vineyard with cooling winds and dry land conditions. They have investigated this wine for years, at last gained access to the vines and will soon plant them on Jordan. We were invited to visit the farm and taste some of these wines from Greece and the only Assyrtiko from outside Greece, which is made in Australia…
"It’s that bloody photographer again, capturing our souls......" Marcha Cooke, Gary Jordan and Jon Meinking
Marketing Assistant Melanie Melville and Marcha Cooke, Jordan's Sales Manager
Drinks on arrival were the 2018 Crisp and delicious Cold Fact Sauvignon Blanc and the 2018 Real McCoy Riesling
Gathering on the terrace
Marcha with Jordan’s General Manager, Jacques Steyn CWM
An opportunity to taste the just picked Chenin Blanc grapes
A smiling Allan Mullins
First, Gary spoke to us about the geology of the Winelands
"Could Assyrtiko be grown successfully in Stellenbosch?" accompanied by some informative slides
Gary Jordan trained first as a Geologist and then as a winemaker, so he is very knowledgeable about the soils on their farm and in the Cape Winelands. Here is a picture of him in one of the old tin mines beneath Jordan
This and the following photographs, until the pic of the amphora, are from Gary's slide show
They had to remove some very large boulders in the new vineyard; here they are drilling
And some of the rocks had to be taken out by explosives
That did become rather interesting at times when explosions, which can be unpredictable, blew things in the wrong directions!
This is a view of the new vineyards on the top of the far hill. The Assyrtiko vineyard will be affected (in a good way)
by the Cape's famous South Easter wind. which does not reach much of the rest of the farm
and a view of Assyrtiko vineyards on the Greek island of Santorini, where it is believed to have originated
The Assyrtiko vines are first grown as bush vines, but after a couple of years they are woven into a basket shape (koulara),
and the grapes encouraged to grow inside the basket
Many years ago Kathy and Gary visited the island and Gary took this photograph of 18 year old Kathy sitting in one of the Assyrtiko basket vines. This was the beginning of their fascination and determination to grow this grape in South Africa. The road has been long and arduous as the grape was not permitted for many years. It is now and is soon to be planted
Here you can see an old vine with many years of woven vines making the koulara basket
This is where it will be planted on Jordan
And a view of the very rocky soil it will be grown on. Assyrtiko performs best in a terroir which is high, dry and cool with rocky soil
Winemaker Sjaak Nelson is very excited about this new grape and has already put in an amphora
which will be used to vinify some of the grapes
Time to taste the Assyrtiko wines
The wines from Greece certainly are warm country wines, some aromatic in a rather Riesling way, others wild and crisp and sunny, all have lots of fruit characteristics, often layered, many with citrus and herbs. The sea is present on some, there is good minerality and there are good fruit acids despite the fruit being really ripe (this is a notable characteristic of Assyrtiko), and many have fullness and roundness
About half had wood influence which adds to the flavour without overwhelming the fruit and nearly all were really enjoyable. We definitely think this is a grape that South Africans will enjoy drinking, especially with food. The Australian Assyrtiko which was only planted in 2012 is much more like an Australian dry, crisp Riesling. Quince like flavours, rather mouth puckering in its youth
Gary wanted to know which wines had impressed us, so asked us to vote for our top two. The room had many different favourites, but two wines did emerge as top versions of this grape. One of these had very familiar Riesling flavours and Lynne asked whether people had liked it so much because it was familiar. Why would we need to copy Riesling when we can allow the real Assyrtiko flavours to develop when it is grown on our soils in our climate. Now that prospect is really exciting
and who should pop in to say hello but Gary's father, Ted Jordan
Then it was time for a light lunch from The Bakery. We sat out on the deck under the trees
They have such great, happy serving staff
Our lunch menu
Three wine tastings you can do on Jordan
Our starter of Spanspek (orange sweet melon) topped with a goats cheese mousse, thin grilled slices of fennel bulb and fennel flowers and some slivers of smoked snoek. It sounded like a disparate combination of flavours but in fact was rather good blend of texture and summer flavours. We had The Outlier Sauvignon Blanc with this course
The main course was a roulade of roasted Pork Belly, with a spiced beetroot and orange purée which cut through the richness and fattiness of the pork and added the necessary fruitiness that pork shines with. Topped with a Waldorf salad of apple and walnuts and dressed with the jus from the meat. The 2017 Nine Yards Chardonnay and the beautiful Sophia Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot
Desserts were tiny crisp pastry 'boats filled with lemon curd, or dark bitter chocolate ganache topped with cream and a sliver of strawberry. And good coffee and tea were served before we took our Uber back to Cape Town
We visited Santorini, the home of Assyrtiko, in 2015. Click here to see the island and its vines in our 2015 story

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