Jackson Family Wines unveil Capensis

Jackson Family Wines has officially launched its debut South African wine, Capensis, a Chardonnay made using grapes from “extreme” and “exceptional” sites across the Western Cape.

Antony Beck and Graham Weerts

Antony Beck and Graham Weerts show off Capensis

Announced earlier this year, Capensis’ total production from its first vintage is around 700 cases, which will be targeted primarily at selected on-trade venues in key cities around the world with a retail price tag of around $80/ £65.

The project developed as a partnership between Antony Beck, the Kentucky-based owner of Graham Beck wine estate, where Capensis is vinified, and Jackson Family Wines chairman Barbara Banke.

Outlining the aim of the project, Beck told the drinks business: “The idea was to make frankly the best Chardonnay from South Africa that we would really enjoy drinking.”

Elaborating, he remarked: “We both really like elegant, well constructed, textured wines with great intensity,” remarked Beck. “We’re focusing on the wine rather than the vineyard.”

With this end goal established, the Jackson team searched for vineyards that would enable them to achieve their desired style.

The inaugural 2013 vintage, as well as the yet to be released 2014 wine, represents a blend of three different vineyards spread across Stellenbosch, the Overberg and Robertson.

At around 60% of the 2013 blend, the Stellenbosch site plays a majority role and is the only property owned by the Jackson family, who bought the Fijnbosch farm last year.

“We found when we were tasting the barrels an extraordinary natural acidity from the site,” commented Beck, who noted that grapes from this vineyard were previously used to make sparkling wine.

The remaining 40% of the blend comes in equal parts from Kaaimansgat, which sits at around 670m altitude in the coastally influenced Overberg range, and the E. Bruwer vineyard in Robertson.

“There’s not a lot of altitude but what’s really sets the site apart is its chalky limestone outcropping,” explained Jackson Family Wines’ winemaker Graham Weerts of the Robertson parcel.

Having worked with South African vineyard consultant Rosa Kruger to find the right fruit sources for this project, Weerts recalled: “The criteria I gave Rosa is that it has to be a pretty extreme site that resonates with me. If it’s not high then it needs exceptional soil.”

Looking ahead, Weerts confirmed that securing contracts rather than buying vineyards was the current strategy for Capensis. “That’s the way we want to go,” he commented, “to continue to shop around the Cape for exceptional sites.”

For the 2015 vintage, which is yet to be blended, he indicated that grapes from the Klein Karoo and another “one or two sites in Stellenbosch” could play a role. “There’s a site in Helderberg I’m really, really excited about,” added Weerts.

Meanwhile at its anchoring Fijnbosch farm, the team is starting what Weerts described as “a major replanting programme”. This will be entirely Chardonnay-focused with the exception of one Pinot Noir plot, which is intended for a small-scale sparkling wine project in the future.

Describing the maiden vintage of Capensis as “close to where we want to be” in terms of its creators’ stylistic goal, Weerts concluded: “We’re not trying to emulate someone else, but there’s a very strong nod to the classics with the acid profile.”

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