Waterford Estate, a Jem in the heart of the Winelands

Posted by David Henning on 16 June 2021

Waterford Estate is nothing if not impressive. The driveway leading up to the farm takes you through a citrus orchard and lavender bushes that perfectly frame the portico-style entrance. It is quite difficult to match the first impressions of Waterford, but it is the wine that leaves a lasting one.

The courtyard of Waterford Estate on the night of the launch.

The Jem

The Jem is Waterford’s flagship wine, named after the owner of the estate, Jeremy Ord. It is a blend of eight red varietals, masterfully pieced together to create a truly expressive and unique wine. The Varietals are all of the Mediterranean from Bourdeaux, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon to keep its structure, along with two Rhône and two Italian varietals.

The star of the night, The Jem 2015.

As with any good wine, there is a story behind the Jem. It was the outcome of a long and passionate project pursued by cellar master Kevin Arnold. He mentions that in the 1980s, when he was a young winemaker, South Africa was making good wines, but never really tipping the scale of becoming world-renowned wine producers.

South African wineries tended to copy what was being done around the world, and as Kevin said, ‘if you copy someone else, the best you can do is come second.’ This led him on a journey inspired by three winemakers from around the world. Robert Mondavi in California, Piero Antinori of Italy and the Torres family in Spain.

These winemakers were doing what no one else has done while creating different and iconic wines and Kevin embarked on a journey to create a truly iconic South African wine.

Jeremy bought the property of the farm in 1998. Back then it was predominantly a fruit farm. With meticulous research on varietals that are drought resistant and suit the farm’s soil, along with tasting experimental varietals at Stellenbosch University, the planting of vines on the estate was carefully curated by Kevin.

This resulted in classical Bourdeaux and Rhone varietals being planted along with Italian and Spanish varietals that raised eyebrows within the South African wine community. But Kevin had a goal to create a South African wine that unlocked the truth of its terroir and was world-class.

And his ambition has been vindicated, with 2011 and 2012 vintages said to be in the top 1% of wines in the world. Today, the Jem stands as a benchmark for winemakers not only in South Africa but around the world.

The launch

The launch for the 2015 vintage took place on 12 June 2021. upon entry, you were greeted with a glass of their MCC and can stroll around their elegant courtyard with live music while appetisers were served leading up to the launch.

With MCC served, the courtyard made for an idyllic spot.

When the time came,  Kevin, along with winemaker Mark le Roux, took us through the tastings. The three vintages selected allowed us to be part of the journey of the Jem. Even though the vintages had similar varietal ratios and maturation processes, you could taste the characteristics of each year but also, got a sense of how well the wine ages. The vintages selected were 2007, 2011 and 2015.

Kevin said during the night that his philosophy in winemaking has always been to open the bottle and let the wine talk for itself. And the wine was nothing short of a beautiful soliloquy as I kept an eye for a waiter as soon as my glass was emptied. The launch was a truly remarkable event where at the end of it, the wine did all the talking.

Wine Tasting at Waterford

Waterford has a range of other wines to try as well as different tastings to cater to your experience. These include their summer tasting of white wines to a chocolate and wine pairing, working together with Chocolatier, Richard von Geusau to create a flavour experience. For those who would like to try the Jem, there is the option of an individual tasting.

Waterford also boasts an amazing restaurant; SALT, with chefs Craig Cormack and Beau du Toit, offering a curated menu for lunch on Tuesdays to Sundays from 11:30-15:30.  All information regarding their tastings can be found here.

Great wines are born from the understanding of the plant, soil and climate of a specific site, together with the creative art of winemaking and blending. This is often a timeless pursuit, but when it comes together, the reward is eternal” – Kevin Arnold



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