Bruce Jack, founder of the Flagstone wine brand, now part of international company Accolade Wines, has cemented his own-venture Drift Farm range by introducing several new wines from family vineyards in the Overberg.
Joining the latest vintage (2014) of his Year of the Rooster Rosé is the maiden There Are Still Mysteries Pinot Noir 2012. Other first-time bottlings, still to be labelled for release early in 2015, include the Moveable Feast Red Blend 2013 (shiraz, malbec, tannat, barbera and tinta barocca) and Gift Horse Barbera 2013.
Grapes are from the family's Appelsdrift Farm between Caledon and Napier.
“After a five-to-six-year ‘hiatus’, I’m very excited to be back with a brand I can call my own,” says Jack. He sold Flagstone to US-based Constellation Wines in 2008 and continued to head their South African winemaking interests (including top-selling export brands Kumala and Fish Hoek).
When Constellation sold a majority stake in its Australian, European and South African businesses to CHAMP, an Australian private equity firm, in 2011, Jack stayed on as chief winemaker for their local arm Accolade Wines South Africa.
Maintaining this position while developing the family vineyards and other farming enterprises on Appelsdrift, which does not yet have its own cellar, Jack has enlisted the help of consultant winemakers and used rented cellar space.
Vintage 2013 was handled by Trizanne Barnard (of Trizanne Signature Wines). The 2014 wines were made by Duncan Savage (of Cape Point Vineyards and Savage Wines). Renowned vintner/viticulturist Chris Keet (of Keet Wines), who also collaborates on Flagstone, advises on vineyard management.
The rosé is made from a small (0.8 ha) single vineyard of touriga franca, the Portuguese 'port' variety until recently known as touriga francesca, the Douro’s most widely planted cultivar. The grapes were fermented bone-dry in old 500-litre French oak barrels and then matured for a further eight months.
The pinot noir is also a single-vineyard (1.8 ha) wine. It combines three Burgundian clones and spent between 12 and 14 months in French oak barrels. It’s what Jack believes Drift Farm will become best known for.
Not only is the variety one of his passions, but he regards the growing conditions of Appelsdrift, against the Akkedisberg in what he refers to as the “Overberg Highlands”, as ideal for this tricky “touchstone” variety. Ancient, “wonderfully diverse” soils combining Table Mountain sandstone, calcified limestone and iron-rich deposits are found at between 400 and 480 m above sea level with cold winds keeping average temperatures “well below Bordeaux”.
Both wines are made in small quantities (between 300 and 400 six-bottle cases). The farm price for The Year of the Rooster Rosé is R86/bottle and There Are Still Mysteries Pinot Noir R652/bottle (in wooden box) and R2,691 for six (in wooden case).
Names and labels are vintage Jack: highly personalised and alluding to an event, anecdote or philosophy attached to each wine. Running like a thread through all Drift Farm labellings, however, is a depiction of a rooster with a heart shape on its chest, surrounded by a stylised Paisley pattern of flowers, plants and small creatures based on an early linocut by artist/designer wife Penny. [The couple share the Chinese Zodiac’s Year of the Rooster as a birth year.]
Appelsdrift, a 204-ha property against the Akkedisberg, was bought by Jack’s father David in 1994. Its isolation from other vineyards as well as its diverse soils and ample natural water resources encouraged the ever-experimenting Jack – whose qualifications include a degree in English, political science and religion from UCT; a Masters in English from St Andrews in Scotland; and a post-graduate degree in oenology and viticulture from Roseworthy College in South Australia – to start setting up weather stations and collecting climatic data.
Armed with an extensive knowledge of the terroir, he subsequently established a number of foundation blocks among the 12 ha of vines planted from 2002. Some had to be replanted in 2006 after a devastating veld fire.
The mix includes several Portuguese port varieties – tinta franca, tinta barocca and touriga naçional – in line with the growing practice in the Douro (and latterly in South Africa) of also using these grapes for quality unfortified red wines. By the same token, other scarcer varieties such as the Italian barbera and French malbec and tannat are being trialled.
“Innovation doesn’t stop in the Swartland!” says the energetic Jack, one of the earlier independent South African vintners to explore vineyard sites and source grapes off the beaten track.
Although Appelsdrift was certified organic in 2012, Drift Farm wines are not, although principles of biodynamic farming are followed.
The farm is the country’s largest grower of organic onions, as well as producing other organically cultivated fresh produce, from shallots to honey, olive oil and verjuice (from shiraz). Jack has also revived an old family tradition in the making of his pure, unadulterated James Mitchell’s Gone Fishing Cider, in honour of his great-grandfather.
Appelsdrift also offers accommodation to visitors in the form of a sprawling farm “villa”.