The value of old vineyards is celebrated around the world, with a belief that older vines, with their lower yields, produce wines of higher quality. Reflecting that with age comes experience is vinous legend, Vriesenhof cellar master, Jan ‘Boland’ Coetzee, who turned 74 this year.
The former Springbok has owned Vriesenhof in Stellenbosch for almost 40 years, making his first wines at the farm in 1981, meaning a long history of understanding its terroir. Their Piekenierskloof grapes come from a vineyard planted in 1965.
British wine writer Jancis Robinson has acknowledged the quality of the old-vine Grenache wines being made in South Africa. Vriesenhof is well known for their excellent Grenache, a grape which is internationally loved and one of the world’s most widely planted red grapes, but which has a modest status in South Africa.
Winemaker Nicky Claasens says their Grenache has “bright fruit with strong aromas of cherries and raspberries, a good structure with white pepper and strawberries on the mid-palate and a long, savoury finish. With age-ability of 10 years or more, this is a wine you can drink now or put away for a special occasion”.
Grenache also plays well in a blend, as can be seen with the Vriesenhof Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre. “This wine has rich aromas of strawberries and blueberries with a deeper, dark fruit component on the mid-palate, with a finish of cherries and white pepper.” For an easier drinking take on Grenache, Claasens recommends the Vriesenhof Grenache Rosé with “hints of grapefruit and lime with lingering cherries and strawberry aromatics on the finish”. With summer around the corner, a glass or two won’t go amiss.
According to Platter’s South African Wine Guide 2019, Grenache makes up 0.38% of all grapes planted in South Africa. So, while limited numbers of South African estates grow the grape, it is increasingly popular in the Cape as it is suited to warm and dry growing conditions.
While sommelier Higgo Jacobs has claimed the popularity of Grenache is rising “especially among the trending wine lists and ‘hipster bars’”, you don’t need a moustache to open a bottle of a Vriesenhof on International Grenache Day, celebrated on September 20.