Bruce Jack is one of the most engaging characters in the global wine trade. Minutes, hours, probably days can pass in this man’s company. I had once arranged to meet him for lunch in South Africa while out for Cape 2010, but I had organised to be picked up in a couple of hours to go somewhere else. Jack turned up clutching loads of bottles and obviously intent on spending the afternoon drinking, talking and probably ultimately tap dancing or rapping. Knowing him far better now, I know what an idiot I was. That might have been one of my greatest, most memorable work-day afternoons. Sadly, I’ll never know.
His talent goes beyond superlative winemaking. The man can also write. So when our interview got curtailed because he had to go off and conduct a wine tasting, I submitted some questions. Jack’s answers are so good that all I will do is run them as they are. Why try to improve what is already excellent?
Firstly, I asked for a biography of Accolade’s chief winemaker, South Africa. This is what the 44-year-old wrote: “I grew up on Surfers’ Corner in Cape Town, where, almost 40 years later, I still surf. The son of an inspirational architect and gifted musician/writer there was always the chance I’d have to become a winemaker.
“Growing up in Cape Town meant Table Mountain was my back yard. My first job was an early morning newspaper round. An early memorable food experience was tasting caviar for the first time on a prep school UK rugby tour and loving it. Fortunately, this predilection for expensive taste only rarely extends beyond food, wine and books – although my wife suggests that’s bad enough.”
The young Jack got into plenty of scrapes and said: “The biggest advantage of growing up in Cape Town was that I learnt the secret password for passing through the Pearly Gates, thanks to Mrs Jimba, my isiXhosa [an official SA language] teacher. I am mildly surprised I didn’t need to use that password on numerous occasions during my young adult life.”
At much pressure Jack released the secret to me: ‘Uxolo’, which means peace – as Jack quipped: “An interesting concept in the late 70s in South Africa.”
And here are his answers to my subsequent questions:
Which wine or range are you most proud of and why?
“That’s a seemingly obvious question, but it’s actually a tough one. Firstly with me pride really does come before a fall, and over the years of much falling, I’ve become a bit weary of pride. So when I get that tickle of elation at what appears at the time to be because of my brilliant self, there is, as sure as hell, a rocket of ego destruction flying straight at me from over the horizon.