By now, the happy news that local-boy-made-good Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen chose cellar master Frank Meaker from Org de Rac organic winery in the Swartland to create two bespoke wines for his Michelin-star Restaurant JAN in Nice has spread far and wide. How proud are we?! There is nothing we love better than a coming-together of great minds, and this is exactly what happened when Frank met Jan Hendrik.
Frank Meaker is a legend in the local wine industry. Grandson of late Kanonkop owner Paul Sauer who left deep footsteps in the South African wine industry, Frank cut his teeth at Distillers Corporation and has since positioned himself as a trailblazing organic winemaker. The truly great thing about Frank, however, is that he didn’t get into organic wine because it is fashionable. As Emile Joubert noted so eloquently on his blog, The Wine Goggle, “As cellar master at Org de Rac in the Swartland, Frank has become a keen follower of organic agriculture. No gimmick or marketing hype. For him, organic is purely about farming as it had been done in them early days. Before a chemical that could blast hell out of the slightest sign of a critter or one pumping volumes of nitrogen into the soil could be ordered at the touch of a button.”
Long-time friend and fellow Elsenburg-graduate, Zakkie Bester, former CEO of Riebeek Cellars, now owner of Bester Family Wines, describes Frank as an adventurous winemaker. “He loves new challenges and has always pushed the envelope. I think it’s best to describe him as a dedicated and investigative winemaker. He also takes exceptional care of his wine. I, for one, am truly inspired by how Frank tackled the challenges of organic winemaking and made such a great success of it. In my opinion, it was his verve and vigour that transformed Org de Rac into the paragon of organic winemaking it is today.”
Bon jour, Jan!
Jan Hendrik, of course, is everyone’s favourite international success story – the farm boy who was awarded a Michelin star after feeding the famously fussy French bobotie and peppermint crisp tart and having them line up for more. The best bit is that this talented chef, photographer and author didn’t disappear into the gentrified fabric of international cuisine – he remains stoically South African and returns to our shores as often as he can. This sets him apart from the Charlizes and Trevors who often lose their local flavour once they hit the big time.
Jan Hendrik has close ties with the Bacon family who own Org de Rac, which is how he met Frank. It wasn’t long before the two were in cahoots and started the process of creating two bespoke wine blends for Restaurant JAN.
And, of course, the wines!
Both blends were inspired by Mediterranean wine styles, which he has grown to appreciate since living in the South of France. JAN White is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Roussanne and Verdelho. JAN Red features a combination of Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Verdelho.
“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.”
The blends, that are now available for purchase online or at Restaurant JAN in Nice, are currently making quite the splash on the French wine scene. Michael Schmitt, die sommelier at JAN, says, “Our diners find the wines intriguing because it combines so many flavours and grape varieties they haven’t tasted before. They call it ‘a wine from the sun’, and regularly comment on its singular finesse and spellbinding spices.”
There you have it, a wonderful success story and feather in the cap of the Swartland wine industry. Santam Swartland Wine & Olive Route would like to congratulate Org de Rac and Frank Meaker on their great achievement. Here’s to many more years of pushing the boundaries and placing our wonderful wines on the international map!