Pieter Walser is the brains behind the BLANK bottle concept. He reminds me of the most popular boy at school who effortlessly excels at everything he does. He shines as a cult winemaker, an artist, a marketer, a surfer, an actor, a negociant, a designer, an entrepreneur, a family man, a visionary, a raconteur, a party animal, a leader, a rebel, a genius, a magician …you get my drift. Whilst Pieter comfortably wears all these hats with great aplomb, he says he prefers not to wear a hat atall, not knowing how to label himself. Speaking of lables, it is really hard not judge his wines by their inimitable, ingenious labels, especially as Pieter draws every one himself and they all have an engaging and absorbing story.
Pieter’s very first, virtually self-taught effort at making wine was in his last year at Uni using a friend’s garage. Clearly he had a golden touch as he quickly sold on all he made, using his tenacity and radiating charm. His impecunious student status must have informed his decision to plough back every rand into buying more barrels and finding more extraordinary vineyards to source grapes.
In 2004, when Pieter was just beginning to bottle his own wines, one of his first customers proclaimed “I don’t do Shiraz”. So, Pieter poured her a glass of straight Shiraz. “I love it” she immediately bellowed! It was at that time that Pieter decided not to varietally label his wines, with the idea of breaking down all preconceived ideas about what you find yourself drinking.
Still to this day, Pieter has no land to his name and buys in grapes and rents vineyards, often on short-term contracts. Usually the wine’s provenance is shown as Western Cape, as the grapes that go in to the blends come from different districts. Some wines are repeated year after year, while others are one-off releases. The limitations are what excite him and there are always new parcels and opportunities arising.
In a nutshell, BLANK bottle is a series of limited edition wines, each with its own individual story, made from specially selected parcels of grapes from around the Cape. In terms of winemaking, this is about as boutique as it gets. Pieter’s scale-small winemaking is hands-off with old barrels being used so that the wine expresses a sense of place. The most recent developments include Pieter messing around with concrete egg & amphora ferments with some skin-contact and whole-bunches.
This September we are showcasing some of Pieter’s new wines with BLANK bottle masterclass tastings in our Kew shop on Wednesday 18th September and in Chiswick on Thursday 3rd October. You will discover more about the man behind the label, his stories and the composition of these new additions. Pieter works with 38 different grape varieties now just to keep everyone guessing. Book on-line here, phone or pop into either shop.
Finally, having built up such a good rapport with Pieter over the last few years, we asked if he would make a wine exclusively for us. He duly barrel-fermented and blended some Macabeo and Fernão Pires, making just 670 bottles and drew a fetching label featuring members of The Good Wine Shop team. I get a hipster makeover with some dark glasses! It has an alluring stone fruit and tropical fruit nose – peach, guava and pineapple – delicate floral tones and a richly textured palate with bright acidity and a saline mineral finish. It is a perfect match with pan-fried scallops with parsnip purée & pancetta crumbs.