Q&A event with winemaker Kathy Jordan, Jordan Wine Estate

We were incredibly pleased that Kathy Jordan was able to join us for an evening at High Timber restaurant to discuss her inspiring journey and dedication to her family’s business, Jordan Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Kathy spoke to a packed room, with over 40 women from the Women in Wine LDN group. 

What began as a small, grape farm in 1990 run by her father-in-law, and “me, my husband Gary and a tractor driver” Kathy says, has grown 10 times in production to become a nearly 1,000 ton cellar winery which still maintains its family feel. Kathy spoke fervently about the business side of the estate. She described the transition from growing grapes to be delivered wholesale to a co-operative to making estate wine, largely driven by their confidence in the quality of the fruit. As their business expanded, so did their roles and management of the farm. Gary, a trained geologist, focuses the vineyard, while Kathy is involved in winemaking and business side of the estate.

A highlight was her discussion about their growth: “The reason that we grew is that we brought land from a neighbouring vineyard. That uniquely gave us every slope aspect on one property.” As a result, they were able to diversify the grape varieties planted, and expand their cellar and range. However with growth comes the need to regroup and make sure it’s sustainable.

 “The most important thing to remember is that you will have a growth spurt, but then you have to consolidate. You and especially your staff may feel stretched at this time, so then you look at hiring more people and changing your processes. You have to be sustainable and look at what your growth is doing and the positives to make good of it.”

When asked about what has attributed to the success of the company she sites this type of strategic growth which she has applied to Jordan’s exports and channel strategy.

“It’s very important for a winery to have your wines available in the market where they are produced. If you export too much, people who tried your wines at your estate can’t find them nearby and then look for something else.”
 Gary and Kathy Jordan, Jordan Wine Estates

Gary and Kathy Jordan, Jordan Wine Estates

Kathy emphasised the importance of having visibility on a restaurant list and staff recommendations in a very competitive market. They remain adamant that their wines are available on restaurants lists close to home –around 50% of their wine is still purchasable in South Africa and its neighbouring countries. This point in the evening provided a great opportunity for questions about building a brand and personal growth vs business growth. 

Kathy also highlighted the importance of tourism to the South African wine industry and their efforts in this vein: a premium restaurant, bakery and luxury guesthouses on their Stellenbosch estate, as well as co-owning High Timber restaurant in London with their good friend, Neleen Strauss. Their success in diversifying their business is also due to the fact that they’ve remained focussed on wine. As Kathy says, “We’ve grown in many ways in different aspects. All of them are complimentary to winemaking, which is our main function.”

Kathy also spoke passionately about the evolution of the Jordan Women in Wine Initiative, a two-fold mentoring programmed dedicated to giving women from all over the globe with no prior experience in winemaking the opportunity to work a vintage, and supporting wine education and mentorship for disadvantaged women working in wine and hospitality in South Africa.

The programme has been an incredible success, and has expanded to other members of the PIWOSA (Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa) group in 2013, a collective of like-minded, premium, independent wine producers from across the diverse wine regions of South Africa’s Western Cape. As of now, the Women in Wine in South Africa has had 15 women in the international scheme and over 30 women in the South Africa one.

It was a great privilege to hear Kathy speak about her amazing experience in not only making Jordan Wine Estate at the forefront of producing and promoting quality wines in the region but also furthering women working in the wine industry globally as well.

 Members of the WIWL group enjoying a glass of Jordan Wine Estate Chenin Blanc on the River Thames outside High Timber restaurant.

Members of the WIWL group enjoying a glass of Jordan Wine Estate Chenin Blanc on the River Thames outside High Timber restaurant.

 Winemaker Kathy Jordan and WIWL's Regine Lee taking questions from the group in the cellars at High Timber restaurant.

Winemaker Kathy Jordan and WIWL's Regine Lee taking questions from the group in the cellars at High Timber restaurant.