Scary Jan Harmsgat Delivers Elegant Wines
JAN HARMSGAT HISTORIC FARMS & COUNTRY HOUSE
Friday 1 June 2018
From padstal to country house, the contrast could not have been greater. The journey on the R60 away from Ashton from the Spanspek Se Plek padstal where I had just tasted Bushmanspad wines – solo as no one was there! – was short. The slave bell was visible from the road, overlooked by the Langeberg Mountains, and an easy landmark for the property. There were scary scarecrows holding wine bottles in the vines by the side of the road by the entrance, with the stony Karoo shale clearly visible beneath. Jan Harmsgat certainly had a different welcome.
The Country House boasts 10 rooms of 5* luxury accommodation. It was easy to see why as I parked and walked past the old slave quarters and between the historic Overberg outbuildings to the main house. The tasting was set up under a marquee at the rear, beside the shop. Extra seating and stalls selling clothing, pomegranate juice, jams, fudge and nuts were there to tempt the festival-goer.
The first wine I tasted was one of the favourites. It was one of the best Sauvignon Blanc I had tasted for a long time. Sporting a simple contemporary yet classic green label with large ‘JHG’ lettering, the wine had a gooseberry fruity nose with lemon and lime citrus aromas of good intensity. The freshness followed through to a clean bright palate with firm acidity and a decent balance.
I rated the unwooded Chardonnay the same. It was fermented using natural yeast and showed typical ripe apple, citrus and vanilla notes. This was another well made wine with excellent balance, a buttery smooth texture and just enough acidity for a fresh mouthfeel. In contrast, the Chenin Blanc was shy on the nose with tropical guava and ripe lemon aromas that improved on the palate. This wine too had a soft texture with a delicate acidity and decent length on the palate.
The farm dates back to 1734 when Governor de la Fontaine granted the property to Jacobus Both who was occupying it at the time. The name Jams Harmsgat is a corruption of the then name ‘Jan Harmans Gat’. Jacobus lived to 90 years, with 12 sons giving him 190 grandchildren. He died in 1782 after which the property changed hands several times. It was once a large wine farm but owner F J van Eeden cut all the vines down to replace them with orange trees as he was so angry about excise duty proposed by a meeting of the Legislature he was at. The 680 hectare farm primarily produces oranges, pecan nuts and olives today. The Platter’s Guide lists 16 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Pinot Noir and Shiraz vines. Oddly, the Jan Harmsgat website does not list the single block wines.
My favourite wine of the tasting was, unusually for me, a Pinotage. It was made in lighter style with pure fresh, not overripe, fruits of plum, cherry and unripe banana. It was not over-oaked to make for an elegant and refreshing wine with a clean feel and a fresh acidity. I asked who the Winemaker was to be told it was Lourens van der Westhuisen from Arendsig Single Vineyard Wines on the opposite side of the Robertson Valley. That did not surprise me at all as I highly rated his powerful, elegant wines at last year’s Wacky Wine Weekend.
The last 2 wines were from the same outstanding 2015 vintage. The Cabernet Sauvignon showed refined red and black fruits on the nose, of medium intensity. I liked the velvety smooth palate that balanced well the fruits and oak with tannins that offered the right level of grip for a lighter style of wine. The Shiraz, in Rhône shaped bottle and the last wine of the tasting, was similarly elegant and well made. Cassis, dark plum and black cherry fruits mingled well with smoky, spicy white pepper aromas on the nose. Like the Cabernet Sauvignon, the palate was structured and with excellent balance.
Jan Harmsgat was becoming busy as I was ready to leave, leading to queues to taste the wines as there were too few servers and stations for the numbers of guests. I fear how it would be tomorrow when Wacky Wine guests peak. I would have liked more explanation about the wines but unsurprised that there was not more. Nonetheless, I really liked the wines and could have bought any number of them.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2016 JHG Sauvignon Blanc – R102*
2015 JHG Chardonnay – R137
2017 JHG Chenin Blanc – R137
2015 JHG Pinotage Reserve – R270 FAVOURITE WINE
2015 JHG Cabernet Sauvignon – R165
2015 JHG Shiraz – R155