The major disadvantage of supermarkets dominating the retail sale of wine is that sometimes it can be difficult to find something different or a bit special produced by an independent, smaller and more boutique estate or vineyard.
The big supermarket chains force huge discounts on their suppliers that only really those that produce huge volumes can cope with – the little guys often can’t compete. This also has an effect on quality – if volume is the primary consideration then that is more often than not at odds with quality, mainly because it leads to over-production. This for me is where independent wine merchants fill the gap in the market.
Finding a wine from an independent wine merchant can be tricky though as, unlike the supermarkets, they are not multi-national or nation-wide and they do not have vast marketing budgets to advertise who they are and what they sell as the supermarkets do. A lot of them rely on good customer service, a solid client-base built up over decades (some independent wine merchants are family-owned and run and have passed through the generations) and word-of-mouth promotion.
The internet has made things easier of late but as a punter you still have to know what you’re looking for.
Vriesenhof is exactly the kind of wine estate that fits this philosophy. Owned by Stellenbosch born-and-bred Springbok rugby legend, Jan ‘Boland’ Coetzee, Vriesenhof wines are crafted with a different set of values to a lot of the bigger and more famous wine estates. Famously wary of marketing spin and hype, Jan only makes wines he likes to drink and only releases wines that are good enough to carry his name. Commercial considerations are often bumped to the back of the queue in favour of others – the decision to release a vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon only in magnums being a case in point (restauranteurs are notoriously averse from ordering wine in this sized bottle).
After honing his skills at Kanonkop, Jan founded Vriesenhof in 1980 and set about cultivating plantings of the two Cabernets, Merlot, Pinotage and Pinot Noir. Joined later by Chardonnay and Grenache, the wines come from three different vineyards each with their own diverse characteristics – Vriesenhof, Paradyskloof and Talana Hill. The Vriesenhof vineyard is situated on south facing slopes at varying altitudes and exposed to the cooling breezes of False Bay. Traditional wood maturation methods are used in conjunction with modern cellar technology to produce wines that are as good as any other from the region.
The Kallista is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc made in the traditional Bordeaux style. In fact you could be fooled into thinking that this is from one of the famous appellations of the Medoc as it is a lot more restrained, understated and elegant than most New World blends of this type. Made to mature in the bottle it is far less fruit-driven too and has that classic claret undertone of mustiness and mushrooms combined with and complemented by cassis-like blackberry fruit. On the nose there is a hint of flint and leather while the tannins are smooth and well-rounded.
Enjoy Kallista with most red meats, medium to full strength cheeses and guinea fowl casserole.
I actually bought this wine in bond but it was available at time of publication from Exel wines for £17.00 per bottle.
One of my favourite SA blends, I give this 90 out of 100.