Q&A with Jan Boland Coetzee and winemaker Nicky Claasens from Vriesenhof Winery

The men behind Vriesenhof Winery's give us a little insight into their wines.

30 Apr 2015
winemaking wine tasting show

This year The TOPS at SPAR Wine Show – the fastest-growing national wine exhibition that returns to Jo’burg for its 10th consecutive time between 7th and 9th May − will showcase a host of different local winemakers at the Sandton Convention Centre. Among them is Vriesenhof, one of the many wineries from Stellenbosch.

What inspires you about the Stellenbosch area? The way the foothills of the Stellenbosch Mountains push down into the valley, with its well-drained soils and height above sea level. The orientation toward the sun and the airflow at different heights above the slope give rise to exceptional growing conditions for a variety of cultivars.

Why the decision to have three different vineyards (Vriesenhof, Paradyskloof and Talana Hill) in the same area?  Technically it is only two vineyards, Vriesenhof and Talana Hill. Paradyskloof is used as our second label, which reflects the area; we use some of the neighbouring vineyard’s grapes in the Paradyskloof wines. Going forward, we are thinking of classifying Talana Hill as a single vineyard.

Very simply, how do the wines from these vineyards differ? The age of the vines is the main difference. Vriesenhof vines were planted in the early 1990’s while the Talana Hill vines were only planted between 2000 and 2010.

Jan, you were originally known for your rugby career.Why the decision to become a Cellar Master?  I played for Maties while studying and had a long career with Western Province. I also wanted to become a vet. But instead I became a winemaker as I come from a family that has made wine in the Piekenierskloof area since the early days – we moved to that area from Stellenbosch as early as 1682.

How does a Cellar Master differ from a winemaker? Cellar Masters and winemakers are just servants of nature, so I am a wine farmer first and foremost. Maybe other people think I need a title.

Tell me a bit about your winemaker and the expertise that he brings. Nicky lived on the farm as a student and was convinced to complete the same studies as myself. Hopefully he will short-circuit the knowledge to become a wine man to guide what nature offers into great bottles.

You combine traditional wood maturation methods with modern fermentation processes. Tell us a bit more about that. Modern winemaking tends to remove much of the art from winemaking and creates wines that are very one-dimensional. Wood maturation is essential for adding complexity and age ability to your premium wines; this is the main reason why we barrel ferment the Vriesenhof wines.  The Paradyskloof Pinot Noir and Grenache also spend time in older barrels purely to soften the tannins and add a bit of complexity.

In this day and age, do you still believe there is an ‘artistry’ to winemaking? How so? Very much so; the blending of the wine is pure artistry as is judging when the wines are ‘ready’.

Tell us briefly about the flavour profiles of your different wines from Vriesenhof specifically. The Vriesenhof Pinot Noir 2013 is elegant with bright fruit and deeper forest floor aromatics, while the Vriesenhof Grenache 2013 is lively and refined with good depth. The Vriesenhof Chardonnay 2013 has an elegant citrus and lime flavour with beautiful secondary oak aromatics.

Nicky, can you share why you love making Chardonnay and Grenache so much?  With the Chardonnay, it is the freedom and the diversity that you obtain through different harvesting times, the type of wood that you use and also the fermentation temperature. The Grenache gives you the joy of being easily malleable; it can be tweaked to give you either a complex intellectual wine or an easy drinking wine.

Your flagship is the Pinot Noir. Tell us why. Jan is a huge Burgundian lover. It has been his passion throughout his winemaking life and therefore he chose to make the Pinot Noir his flagship in 2000 as the culmination of years of study. The Pinot Noir also showcases the terrior of the farm exceptionally well.

Have your wines won any awards? The Vriesenhof Grenache 2013 won gold at the 2014 Six Nations Challenge.
Which of you wines will be showcased at The Wine Show in Jo’burg? The Paradyskloof Chardonnay 2014, Paradyskloof Pinot 2011 blend, Paradyskloof Grenache 2013, plus the Vriesenhof Chardonnay 2013, Vriesenhof Kallista 2009 and Vriesenhof Grenache 2013.

For more details on the TOPS Wine Show, click here.

- Food24

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