Named after Waterford Estate’s owner, Jeremy Ord, or Jem as he is known, this is a red blend that has often seduced but also confounded critics over the years in equal measure since its first release in 2004. Indeed visitors to Waterford Estate often wonder if the different varietals that go into The Jem are aged separately. “They aren’t,” says winemaker Mark Le Roux.
A slightly exotic blend in the South African context, shortly after undergoing malolactic fermentation, about 20 different batches of the eight various varietals are meticulously blended to make up The Jem. “This is done to give the wine the maximum amount of time to integrate and bond” says Mark.
It is certainly a wine I have grappled with over the years and is perhaps one I have often failed to fully understand. So when in doubt, crack another bottle and explore further is what they say! With noticeable style changes occurring under Mark Le Roux’s watch towards greater elegance and freshness with real changes really being effected over the past 3 to 5 years, it certainly was time to open and reflect on the contents of a bottle of the newest release – The Jem 2014.
Waterford The Jem Red Blend 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.
Made from a warm, moderate growing season, 2014 as a vintage is best remembered as the last normal year before four drought seasons. The 2014 Jem blend is made up of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Shiraz, 14% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot, 4% Mourvedre, 3% Sangiovese and 2% Barbera. According to winemaker Mark Le Roux, the Jem is based on both red and black berry fruits with spicy aromatic tones and a polished, textured mouthfeel. The nose does indeed reveal opulent layers of fruit and spice with pronounced notes of oregano, thyme and dusty stony minerality. It certainly invokes notes of high octane wine making that thrives on the exotic. This wine could so easily be another Bordeaux blend based around Cabernet Sauvignon and it would no doubt excel under the watchful eye of Mark Le Roux. But there is a higher striving involved with this wine and since its inception, it has never embraced the establishment but rather courted the esoteric. It is on the palate that the idiosyncratic blend components reveal themselves, showing spicy black olive, red cherry spice, red peppercorns and red currant bramble berry fruits that buffer a darker, denser core of earthy black currant and saline cassis depth. In the past, this wine was perhaps a little too big and bold for me but now with the more recent vintages I can see the evolving tannin elegance, the textured nuances, interwoven acidity and exotic herbal Italianesque spices that set this icon wine apart from its competitors. If you like bold, modern, adventurous red wines, I suggest you crack a couple of these with your Sunday roast beef. Satisfaction is guaranteed. Drink now to 2034+
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)