Stellenbosch Mountain viewed from the Pinotage bush vine vineyard at Vriesenhof
The first Coetzee arrived in Table Bay in 1679. They acquired their first land in Stellenbosch in 1682 (today known as Coetzenburg) with some more land acquired later in the Jonkershoek Valley. They left Stellenbosch to explore the rugged West Coast at the end of the 1680’s. Jan Coetzee returned to Stellenbosch in 1963 to pursue his studies in viticulture at the Stellenbosch University.
A very important element of wine is the historical agricultural background. If the grapes feel at home in the land, they can tell the story that the land has written with a clear voice. In the 16th century Olivier des Sevres said, “Terroir is an alliance of soil and a complex network of plants and light.”
This was Jan’s belief when he bought Vriesenhof in December 1980. Situated at the foothills of the Stellenbosch Mountain, where the ever-changing climatic effect of the Atlantic Ocean is evident throughout the year.
Jan’s first wine was produced under the majestic oak trees in 1981. When he arrived on Vriesenhof, it was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsaut and Pinotage. In 1983, Jan started planting Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. His innovation continued in the mid-1990’s when he added Pinot Noir and in 2009 when he planted Grenache vineyards.
During 1987, close friends bought the neighbouring farm, Talana Hill. A few years later, the two farms were joined to form the estate which is now known as Vriesenhof Vineyards.
Since 2006, the majority of the farm has been replanted, except for a small vineyard of old bush vine Pinotage at the top of the hill, as you enter the estate. These vineyards represent the wines of the new generation, who follow the philosophy that “The winemaker is a humble servant of nature. His role is to give nature the opportunity to produce the best possible wine.“ Wine is not only the memory of terroir, but also the expression of place. However it changes from vintage to vintage – an ever evolving memory adding not only to the history of place, but also to the relationship between nature and man. Every vintage is a true reflection of the triumphs and struggles of each growing season, but also the excitement of what that vintage can bring. In the words of legendary Australian winemaker, Jack Mann: “Nature creates, man only guides.”
'One's footsteps must be in the soil,
you must understand the soil,
the plant and the climate.'
Jan 'Boland' Coetzee
Jan 'Boland' Coetzee
Stellenbosch has always inspired me. It's where I was educated, learned the great game of rugby, started a family and made many friends. It is also where I have come to fulfill my passion and fascination for the noble art of winemaking.
It all began in 1980 when I purchased the farm Vriesenhof in the Paradyskloof Valley. Together with my team I set about cultivating plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinotage and Pinot Noir. Today these plantings produce two very diverse ranges of wines under the labels of Vriesenhof and Paradyskloof.
Jan 'Boland' Coetzee is respected not only for his pioneering winemaking spirit and outstanding rugby career, but also for his contribution to the social upliftment of vineyard staff. His belief in 'always performing to the best of one's ability' has led him to take a personal commitment to ensuring their ongoing personal growth and well-being.
My journey towards the art of winemaking was inspired by my father and guided by Jan Boland Coetzee. Through his patience and with his mentorship I have started my journey, exploring the diversity of Stellenbosch, the haunting beauty of Pinot Noir and the elegance and refinement of Chardonnay.
My journey has taken me to France to refine my skill with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. I have travelled to the heart of British Columbia to savour different nuances of Pinot Noir and to gain experience with delicate white varietals. Yet I know that my journey has just begun, many different horizons await me in the future as I explore my art, but I know for a fact that my heart resides at the foot of the Stellenbosch mountain, at Vriesenhof.
The south facing slopes of the vineyards of the vineyards give Vriesenhof all the advantages needed to produce wines of exceptional character and quality. Situated at varying altitudes, they are exposed to the cool coastal breezes from False Bay, their soils consisting mostly of decomposed granite and Malmesbury shale.The hilltop is home to Pinotage bush vines, the rich shale soil enhancing the fruity flavours in the Pinotage grapes.
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It's official, Spring is here... Though given the inclement weather and the fact that we've had snow in September the past 2 years it's probably too soon to break out the summer clothes.
In the vineyards, the early ripening Chardonnay vines are showing their first new growth of the season and it won't be long before the other cultivars start their growth cycles.