Jan Boland at his Proud Peak of Perfection at Pappa G’s
A doyen of the South African Wine Industry, Jan Boland Coetzee, regaled 60 patrons at Pappa G’s Trattoria when he presented an array of 10 of his current wines. Boland, who played six tests for the Springboks in the 1970s, held the then record of 127 matches for Western Province, and played for Stellenbosch University (Maties) for 17 years.
Boland hailed the 2015 vintage as “the best in my wine making career in that it shows refined African eloquence”. This statement takes understanding. Way back in 1981, author Fanie de Jongh wrote:
“In spite of his profound admiration for French wines, Boland is of the opinion that South African winemakers should not try to imitate, but rather to emulate them, to produce wines with a distinctive South African stamp.” Boland was then 36 years old and had left the Kanonkop wine estate to learn about Pinot Noir in Burgundy itself.
When he proudly presented the Vriesenhof Pinot Noir of 2015 and the Vriesenhof Grenache of 2015, he recounted how he carefully selects his plant material, and after a vintage, gets buds from performing vines that he grafts to enable evolution and mutations to take place.
At the same time, he - as a scientist - has studied the characteristics of the various oak forests. For each vintage, he flies out his cooper, who tastes the wines and then focuses on producing barrels from all three forests in different ratios and different degrees of toasting, suitable to that vintage.
The soft and fresh Paradyskloof Pinot Noir (from younger vines) compared so well with the refined excitement of the Vriesenhof (from matured vines) that he is preparedtocallita“Pinotd’Vriesenhof”, because he has fulfilled his life’s ambition - in so far as a winemaker can. With the value of the rand, there is a big movement of overseas investors who want to market the inexpensive Cape, regarded as the best wines at accessible prices in the world. The top market wines, especially, are making a big impact. It is close to laughable that his top 2015 costs less than £20.
The audience at Pappa G’s were most attentive, but shy to speak, so Boland moved among the tables. He told the story of Grenache, the major grape in the Southern Rhone region of Chateauneuf du Pape. It was the favourite wine of the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte. The Portuguese thus planted Grenache on the West Coast at Piekenierskloof. This is now the most famed vineyard in the country. Over a decade ago, Jan took cuttings through to his Vriesenhof farm outside Stellenbosch and established a single vineyard of Grenache. Recently the 2013 Grenache won its class in a huge International Competition in Australia, and also came second overall to a New Zealand Pinot Noir. Most of the patrons, lucky to be exposed to this very limited release, were astounded by the incredible experience. Boland responded: “It is an other, not another wine.”
The food, planned by organiser Denise Lindley of the Francois Ferreira Academy and provided by Marietjie Geldenbloem and Gerald Paluzzi at Pappa G’s, matched two charming Chardonnays - the unwooded 2016 and the 2015 barrelfermented Chardonnay.
Also on offer were the 2009, the 2011 and the 2013 Vriesenhof Kallista (a Bordeaux blend) in magnum, showing balance and a blueberry tone with a smooth texture coming from the Merlot.
Boland does not release his wines chronologically. In fact, the stunning 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon has only ever been sold at the Cape Winemakers Auction, and the 2007 Pinot Noir awaits release.
“I hope I never have to release them. They are forever!” Boland said.
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Jan Boland (right) with Conrad Louw, a Cape Wine Master, at the tasting.