Farming is not for the hasty, get-rich-quickly kind of person. If that’s who you are, settle for banking or tendering for government projects.
Whether you’re producing sheep, cattle or grapes, not much changes on a farm within a year. Good farmers watch their products through all the seasons, year by year, and select the best each year for the future. Then those are watched carefully, and the best of them are set aside for further improvement.
As the years pass the products of the farm grow better and better.
You can’t hurry the seasons and even with modern technology a year takes 365 days to pass.
This is evident at Vriesenhof, where Jan “Boland” Coetzee has been selecting individual vines for many years.
It’s not good enough, he says, simply to decide Merlot, or Cabernet or whatever, will do well in this particular vineyard. Some individual vines thrive while others struggle to survive heat, wind, viruses and mildew.
Not all Merlots are equal.
Jan takes cuttings from those vines that thrive and grafts them onto rootstocks that have also shown their adaptability.
These baby vines have every chance of producing good healthy, disease-resistant grapes.
Even then, it will be a few years before the new vines come into full production.
This feeling of timelessness is what distinguishes between great vineyards and merely good ones. This is why the great vineyards of France are so famous. It’s taken them centuries to get where they are.
It’s no accident that the wines from Vriesenhof score four stars and higher in each year’s Platter Guide.
They’ve earned every one of those red stars by patience and careful, hard work. And time.
And if you’re a buyer of these great wines, don’t rush them. They’re not made for a quick gulp at a disco party. There are hundreds of wines on the market that will serve for that. Vriesenhof wines deserve your full attention.
Try the wonderful ’05 Vriesenhof Kallista blend. It’s a great wine right now, but in three more years it will be stunning.
The ’05 Cabernet takes you back to what a good Cabernet is all about – dry, noble, even a touch austere. There’s nothing juicy or tutti-frutti about it,
But as you sip it, you know you’re tasting greatness.
Photograph: David Biggs, Cabernet, merlot