With wine having played a profound role in the culinary journey which lead to his becoming South Africa’s first Michelin-starred chef, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen has launched his first wines under his own label.
Both white and red wines, a Special Cuvèe White and Special Cuvée Red, are named after his award-winning restaurant JAN which is based in Nice, France, and are blended from grape varieties grown on one of South Africa’s leading organic wine farms, Org de Rac in the Swartland region.
“For me, the relationship between food and wine is unquestioningly symbiotic and it is impossible to think of the one without the other,” says Jan Hendrik. “I began to understand this as a young trainee chef in Stellenbosch, and since moving to France the importance of wine as a partner to gastronomy was further instilled, as here it is of almost religious importance.”
Since opening JAN in Nice, Jan Hendrik has made a point of including wines from this homeland on the wine-list.
The decision to release two wines under his own label was inspired by the quality and variety of terroir-driven grapes grown on Org de Rac, which lies just before the Swartland town of Piketberg.
“I believe in the concept of organically grown grapes – as chefs we want the finest ingredients farmed in natural conditions, so why should it be any different when it comes to wine?” says Jan Hendrik. “Combine this with the Swartland region’s unique climate and soils, and one has a very special quality of grape to work with.”
JAN white is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Roussanne and Verdelho. The red expresses Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Verdelho. Working in tandem with Org de Rac cellarmaster Frank Meaker, Jan Hendrik was closely involved in creating the various blends.
“Knowing that the raw materials were of such a high standard, it was very exciting to sit down with Frank before the various wine components to create the white and red blends for the two JAN wines,” he says. “It was a bit daunting – the bottle bears my name and therefore the contents must match the standards of excellence and the superior quality for which the restaurant is known.”
Only 600 bottles of each wine have been made and orders can only be placed online at janhendrik.com/wines/