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Vriesenhof’s Nicky Claasens Departs South Africa Soils

Vriesenhof’s Nicky Claasens Departs South Africa Soils

Goodbyes are never easy. No matter the circumstances. Yet perhaps after an atypical year like 2020, farewells are even harder to bear, as social gatherings and celebrations have been replaced with social distancing and virtual experiences. Yet, regardless of the circumstances, there’s no way the Vriesenhof community could sidestep the departure of their viticultural cornerstone, Nicky Claasens.

After 13 years of dedicated and award-winning winemaking, Vriesenhof Winemaker Nicky Claasens and his wife Bettina will be emigrating to Germany to establish new roots. On the news of this move, writer Emile Joubert expressed:


“Nicky was definitely being touted as a leader among the newer generation of winemakers. Technically sound, he understood his vineyards and the impact of Vriesenhof’s geography on the final product. Throw in sharp, understated wit and an opinionated stance on all matters wine, and he is definitely leaving a hole in the South African wine world.”

Yet rather than lament his departure, the Vriesenhof team have opted to celebrate the many contributions Nicky has so effortlessly gifted to the Paradyskloof-based winery and industry at large.

Born in Cape Town, Nicky’s early career started in animation. Lucky for us all, he soon found himself drawn to the field of winemaking. After obtaining a BScAgric (agricultural economic analysis) degree at Stellenbosch University, he worked his way up to Vriesenhof to his current position as winemaker. While following in the somewhat intimidating footsteps of winemaking legend and Vriesenhof cellarmaster and owner Jan Boland Coetzee, Nicky maintained his cool-as-a-cucumber persona. When asked whether Nicky felt like he had large shoes to fill following Jan’s retirement from winemaking, Nicky laughed and responded: “Jan doesn’t even wear shoes most of the time”.

With a winemaking philosophy centred around “unobtrusive manipulation”, Nicky focused his efforts on taking what nature provides and using his expertise to make the best wine possible without harming its intrinsic qualities.

While his journey towards the art of winemaking was inspired by his father Deon, for the past 13 years he has been mentored by Jan Boland Coetzee, named “Winemaking Legend” by British journalist Tim Atkin in the 2018 South Africa Special Report.

As Vriesenhof bids farewell to an irreplaceable member of the team, they express their tributes. Vriesenhof CEO Eddie Smit shares how it has been a privilege to work alongside Nicky for the past 10 years:

“He has been an integral part of the rejuvenation of the Vriesenhof brand and will be missed. We want to wish Bettina and him all the best on their new adventure and look forward to sharing memories and a glass of wine in the future.”

Naturally, Jan Boland Coetzee had his own words to contribute, saying:

“Van ‘n student tot hoof wynmaker op Vriesenhof.  Nicky het ‘n besonderse identiteit en aanvoeling vir wyn met ‘n ongelooflike palate, wat ek gaan mis.  Ons lewe in ‘n tyd van verandering en almal hier op Vriesenhof wens hom voorspoed en vreugde toe met hierdie nuwe reis wat hy aanpak.”

From a student into Chief Winemaker at Vriesenhof. Nicky has a unique identity and flair for wine with an incredible palate, which I will miss. We live in a time of change and everyone here at Vriesenhof wishes him prosperity and joy with this new journey he is embarking on.

Once, when asked about what the future holds, Claasens responded saying he prefers to take life one day at a time. “My wine journey has just begun, many different horizons await me in the future as I explore my art, but I know for a fact that my heart resides at the foot of the Stellenbosch mountain, at Vriesenhof.”

The Vriesenhof team wishes Nicky and Bettina nothing but the best experiences across the pond. We thank you for paving the direction of the new path we tread and look forward to welcoming you back to the valley – your heart’s home. In Emile Joubert’s words: “Hopefully the move north is temporary”.

We’ll keep the light on for you, Nicky.