As wine lovers, we tend to focus on the sensory experience that our favourite beverage delivers. Less often do we shine the spotlight on the wider context of ‘place’ – or the sometimes larger-than-life ‘characters’ behind the award-winning wines we enjoy each day. One such individual is Vriesenhof’s Jan ‘Boland’ Coetzee, who firmly believes the grapes will tell the story the land has written. I had the privilege of sampling the estate’s superb grenache recently.
The South African wine industry is blessed with unique and interesting characters – even legends – who’ve been instrumental in developing our local wine production endeavours into a world-class enterprise. Of course one can’t talk about influential figures in the world of wine without the name of Vriesenhof’s owner and cellar master, Jan ‘Boland’ Coetzee, coming up – Jan was to my mind rightfully crowned last year as South Africa’s ‘winemaking legend’ by well-known British wine writer Tim Atkin.
Jan started his career as a winemaker at Kanonkop in the late 1960s – he was behind this iconic estate’s first vintage wine in 1973 – and bought Vriesenhof in 1980. In much the same way that we at Sanlam Private Wealth consider ‘perspective’ as an important part of our investment philosophy, Jan and his team at Vriesenhof approach winemaking with the wider environment firmly in mind.
‘To focus on the grape, detached from the context of the place, is to lose the forest from the trees. In the plant world, the vine reveals to us the true value of the land. The vine expresses through the grape the secrets of the soil,’ he says.
This approach is clearly evident in the wines produced on Vriesenhof – they undoubtedly reveal a ‘sense of place’. This is particularly true for the 2017 vintage grenache, the grapes of which are sourced from Piekenierskloof. I was fortunate enough to taste the bolder 2015 vintage, which delivered masculine wines.
The 2017 grenache is a feminine vintage. The wine presents itself on the nose with a burst of red berry flavours. The red berries and strawberry flavours repeat on the palate. This medium-bodied wine is elegant, with fresh acidity that fills the mid-palate, aided by soft tannins that complete the structure in the wine. The finish is soft and lingering, with a hint of cherry.
This style of wine allows for enjoying a glass on its own, or with dishes where spices don’t dominate. The personal favourite of the cellar master? Lamb ribs!
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