(Don’t get your hopes up, it’s just a bunch of epic rockstar winemakers whose philosophies on life will make you feel completely out of touch on the meaning of humanity/make you want to hibernate in their winemaking tavern just to get a glimpse of the tantalising madness that ensues.)
Blank Bottle by Pieter Walser is one of those examples. As a newcomer to Swig and having admired his range since first working at Park + Bridge I have always wanted to meet him. From his famous beginnings, flagging off his first batch of wine to a no-shiraz-ever customer, neglecting to mention the actual grape variety (Shiraz), which she of course loved. He decided, it’s time for some no –nonsense winemaking. You try the wine, you like it - great, you don’t like it then try something else. None of this grape disclosure business. This is about the beauty of terroir, parcel winemaking and pure character.
At 8am we set out on our adventure on what was our 6th day in South Africa and boy, were we ready to meet him. From his experimental Orbitofrontal Cortex where he essentially strapped a bunch of wires to his head so he could analyse his brain for the perfect blend, to his 6 individual vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons, each as different from the next, a true example of terroir, which then go on to be blended for the BIG Cab. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was sure I wouldn’t forget this encounter.
We arrive in the winery and Pieter is ready to rumble. He has such a bright energy, immediately drawing you in and even though he is speaking at a million miles an hour, you’ve already become a captive audience. After touring around his (much more organised that I would have expected) winery, he then announces “shall we head to the lounge” – behind the stacked shelves of blank bottle wooden boxes, an oasis appeared.
With art snippets, trinkets, beautiful tapestry this was a veritable 80’s Californian garage… But hey! No Time to Waste. Bam, powered through the new vintages of whites and reds, sitting in silence and awe at how so much creativity can live in one human. 33 wines tasted, 2 hours later and even the antique Alladin-esque lamp spittoon is knackered. I am filled with warmth and completely happily exhausted.
Pieter is a force to be reckoned with, and yet so humble. That morning in the oasis drizzle of the Stellenbosch rolling hills, an unforgettable moment was had. We can’t wait to start stocking his new wines!