Background

Jacobsdal occupies 300 hectares in size, with 92 hectares planted to bush vines. The estate’s signature wine, Pinotage, is produced from just 18 hectares of vines, grown at an altitude of 140m above sea level.

BACKGROUND
The Dumas family has been making wine on the estate for three generations. Present owner Cornelis Dumas makes wines together with his son, Hannes who will eventually take over the reins.

LOCATION
Jacobsdal occupies 300 hectares in size, with 92 hectares planted to bush vines. The estate’s signature wine, Pinotage, is produced from just 18 hectares of vines, grown at an altitude of 140m above sea level.

The estate lies on the extreme south-westerly edge of the Stellenbosch Wine of Origin region. It is situated between Stellenbosch and Kuils Rivier, on the slopes of the hills overlooking False Bay, less than 10 kms away. The soil of the vineyards has a gravelly, sandy loam structure with yellow clay as a base. Good soil drainage and water-retention make it possible to produce quality grapes under absolute dryland conditions.

At Jacobsdal, wines are genuinely hand-made. The must is fermented in open tanks. No commercial yeast is used and fermentation is allowed to develop spontaneously from the natural yeast cells on the skins. The must and skins are hand-stirred using long wooden poles with crossbars to extract optimal colour, flavour and tannins.

Wine is matured in small casks of French oak for 18 months, and allowed to settle in the bottle before being released. For decades the farm produced only the Jacobsdal Pinotage, selling its other grapes, but recently limited quantities of Jacobsdal Cabernet Sauvignon have also released through the Bergkelder Vinotèque.

WINEMAKER PROFILE
Cornelis Dumas, 60, shrugs innocently: "You know at university they tell the students never, ever to try and make wine with natural yeasts, but I have been doing it for 40 years and never once have my grapes not started fermenting, and never once has the fermentation got stuck."

But then you also need to take a peek at the Jacobsdal cellar by way of explanation. Built in 1920, nothing has changed, from the ornate gable with crudely cut holes for ventilation to the open cement fermentation tanks beneath, to the hand made instrument for 'punching the cap'. His father made the wine before him, and when he died suddenly when Cornelis was 21, the aspirant winemaker had to give up his oenological studies at Stellenbosch University and head back to the farm.

He simply followed his father's tried and tested method and still makes wine in the same natural way. "Why change a recipe that works so well?" questions Dumas, who personally oversees the grapes coming in and watches himself for fermentation to start, taking it off the skins at just the right time and pumping it into the aged settling tanks where malolactic fermentation also begins spontaneously. He admits to adding sulphur dioxide as the grapes come in to preserve the must until fermentation starts in the traditional open fermentors. These 'old-fashioned' tanks make punching down the cap much easier and expose the skins to the juice more effectively. A blanket of carbon dioxide forms naturally above each tank so oxidation is avoided and further chemicals and preservatives are unnecessary.

He ascribes his success with natural fermentation to firstly a squeaky clean cellar where no bacteria is given a chance to ruin the wine. The dryland vineyard is situated on the southern edge of the Cape Winelands, close to the sea and on an exposed hillside so that the prevailing gentle breeze blows away harmful pests and bacteria with ease. Thus he is able to stop spraying just before Christmas and still have healthy grapes by February with just enough of their own yeast to start fermenting themselves.

Cornelis' son, Hannes joined him in the cellar 7 years ago, after competing a diploma in Farm Management at the Worcestor Agricultural College. The plan is to gradually let Hannes take over the reins.

Jacobsdal Estate
+27.218813336