Waterford Estate

‘To really know wine you have to taste The Jem’

Tasting Room:
Mon - Fri | 09:00 - 17:00
Sat | 10:00 - 17:00
+27 (0)21 880 0496
Blaauwklippen Road | Stellenbosch
Waterford Wine Estate

‘To really know wine you have to taste The Jem’

We asked a few industry professionals what they think of Kevin Arnold’s most personal offering yet

Waterford Estate has a vision: to create the best red wine in South Africa, one that has what it takes to stand up to the best of the best red wines in the world. Winemakers Kevin Arnold and Francois Haasbroek from Waterford Estate officially launched the third vintage of their labour of love, Waterford Estate The Jem 2006, shortly after the World Cup in July 2010.

It's all berries and spice, with a harmonious mouth feel and a long (dare I say life changing?) finish - but is it the best wine they have ever made?

“Our Cabernet has an attraction of its own, but The Jem took ten years of experimenting” says Francois Haasbroek, Kevin Arnold’s right hand man and fellow winemaker at Waterford Estate, ”the blend is Cab dominant with a strong element of Shiraz and Mourvedre and a small percentage of Merlot.”

Yet he makes it clear that it’s not the sum of the varietals that matter most but rather that The Jem is “a holistic blend that is a representation of the property. There’s no over-oaking or strong tannins. It’s more elegant and poised.”

'Something really exciting and individualistic'

After his first taste, award-winning sommelier Luvo Ntezo from the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa is quite philosophical about The Jem: “France, Australia, New Zealand – they are all known for different things. To taste French wines is easy. They are stylistic. You spend R5000 and hide them in your cellar. If you drink them early there will be a national disaster.

“Kevin came up with something really exciting and individualistic. It’s a Blaauwklippen Weg style of wine. No one else can make such a wine. It’s expensive [R680] but there’s value in the effort that Kevin went through to make it. I always used to say that to really know wine you have to taste a Château Lafite Rothschild or a Château Pétrus. Now I say that to know wine you have to taste The Jem. It’s a wine that is approachable now but people will still be talking about it for years.

“I will have it on my wine list for as long as I live. It’s a lovely, versatile wine.”

'Built on relationships, honesty and ethics'

A strong element behind the story of The Jem is the family values and good principles of Waterford Estate and the people involved in it. Besides the quality of the wine this is what Brendan Crew from Caveau restaurant and wine bar respects most about Waterford Estate's latest offering: “The Jem is an expression of what Kevin has been trying to achieve for many years. It is built on relationships, honesty and ethics - that's what lies behind the scenes. I like the fact that they are not too specific about the varietals in the blend. It’s indicative about what the French does. You shouldn’t be able to pick up a varietal if you put a blend together that works so well.

“I love it. Absolutely delicious. Well balanced.”

Allan Forrester from 96 Winery Road agrees that the integrity and vision of The Jem deserves respect. He adds that "we are lucky in South Africa to have great entry level wines as well as high end wines such as The Jem that can compare to France. The Jem, however, has a new world twist that makes it truly South African and unique".

This is an exciting time for Waterford Estate. While the future can never be certain, there are many wine industry professionals who believe in what Kevin Arnold and Francois Haasbroek has put together. For them, as for the Waterford Estate winemakers, it’s not just another wine.

“This wine is very personal,” ends Francois, “we believe in it".

By Lize de Kock

For more insight into the incredible Cape Winelands, visit our Winelands section.

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