And so it does too with Oprah Winfray and Katy Perray. So what do these
almost famous or deliberately misspelt names rhyme with? Chardonnay of
course – the almost popular varietal up in lights at Vriesenhof Vineyards.
The strangely irreverent tone of its marketing may be seen as an
unconventional approach but is in fact true to the roots of this fine
Trend forecasts strongly suggest that Chardonnay will soon replace
Sauvignon Blanc as South Africa’s favourite white wine. But long before the
argument for Chardonnay’s rightful place as a noble option, Jan Boland
Coetzee’s passion for the potential of this green-skinned grape was laid bare
in a 1986 newspaper headline that read: BOLAND COETZEE HET DRUIF
GESMOKKEL (Boland Coetzee smuggled grapes). Let’s just say that his
skipping through customs with a couple of vines from France was innocent
impatience with the pre-1985 authorities.
Boland Coetzee’s toil, perseverance and a belief that the grape would, at
its own will, adapt to the different conditions and climate saw the
malfeasant chardonnay take root on the slopes outside Stellenbosch. And a
new generation of winemaker in Nicky Claasens has been tasked to take
Vriesenhof into the future. And like Boland Coetzee, Claasens too refuses to
curate wines to suit trends. “We see ourselves as caretakers of the vines
and believe that if our grapes are at home in the land, they will tell their
Both the current vintages, Vriesenhof Chardonnay 2015 and the Vriesenhof
Unwooded Chardonnay 2017, prove with tasting to be elegant examples of
both styles. The wooded chardonnay, which has spent 10 months in French
oak barrels, has aromas of dried pear and peach. It has hints of green apple
and gooseberries on the palate with a lingering minerality on the finish. The
unwooded chardonnay highlights the playfulness of this varietal. It is light
and bursting with fruit, a true expression of its place.
In an age where we are expected to constantly innovate or discard proven
wisdom – being unconventional has become convention.
But the belief at Vriesenhof is that a wine is not made to order nor are vines
twisted to suit trends. If the grapes feel at home in the land, they will tell
the story that the land has written.
One could say that they embrace unconventional wisdom.
And unconventional wisdom seems to say that Chardonnay is okay. Just ask
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