BLANKBottle - Mind-bending wine from Pieter Walser

Richard Wilson

Posted on September 10 2021

Blank Bottle winemaker - Pieter Walser - New Wave South Africa

 

Pieter was coined “The man making mind-bending wine” by The Telegraph so prepare to have your mind blown with some new wines from BLANKbottle. His wines have built an astonishing following since we first took them and are getting better and better.

For those of you new to it, or as a reminder to others, here is the back story to the name BLANKbottle.

When Pieter was starting out, he made a small parcel of Shiraz and was left with a few unlabelled cases. One day, a woman wanted to buy a wine – “Anything but Shiraz,” she told him. Pieter shrugged and sold her the unlabelled Shiraz, neglecting to mention the variety. A few weeks later she returned demanding more, saying it was the best thing she’d ever drunk. For Pieter, it was a lesson on the gap between what people think they like (or dislike) and what they actually like (or dislike). After that, he decided not to list the varieties on his labels.

Every one of Pieter’s wines is a story, rather than a grape variety, and it’s the juice inside the bottle which reveals that story. He doesn’t own any vines, but instead scours South Africa’s winelands for top-quality fruit that has somehow slipped under the radar, now sourcing from nearly 70 sites. Some years he’ll make 40 wines, other years 50. With the benefit of anonymity, variety and regional identity take a back seat while parcel expression does the driving. These are some of South Africa’s most original wines, made by one of South Africa’s most original winemakers. So as quantities are very limited for some wines, grab some now, whilst you can.

 

1-CLICK-OFF 2020

1-click off Blank Bottle - Bottle Shot

 

“In 2012, I was introduced to a lonely, newly established 3-clone-combination Pinot Noir vineyard. Little did I know what lay ahead for me and this little vineyard.

I started with a clear vision for this wine – only to miss it completely… hence the original name of the wine: 2-CLICKS-OFF. The ‘13 and ‘14 vintages came and went – either down the drain or to a blend. The vineyard then changed ownership and I was out. Lost the vineyard. It happens from time to time. I’m a firm believer in letting things take its natural course but this time round it was different. I had the conviction that the vineyard was mine to make wine of. It just needed to mature a bit. So I decided to fight for it. 

 

1-click off Blank Bottle vineyard - South Africa

 

I didn’t give up and in harvest 2016 I received the long-awaited phone call: do I still want the Pinot? Being so late in the season, the grapes were over-ripe and the vineyard was in a neglected state. But I knew that it was my chance to get my foot back in the door.

After harvest, when the dust had settled, we sat down and had a chat. I immediately sensed a change of heart. Andre van Wyk, the now fully committed sole owner, had a vision but wasn't sure how to go about it. He was also aiming for a classic Pinot. So I took my cue from George Clooney in the OCEAN-8 movie: I needed a team. I approached a guy called Jaco Engelbrecht of Visual Viticulture – an intensely articulated and passionate guy. I introduced Jaco and Andre and immediately there was the proverbial magic in the air. The game was on!

Andre got so excited that he employed Marthinus and Patric to spend 100% of their time in the vineyard. We started to farm (or rather groom) the vineyard intensely. What a journey… In Jaco’s opinion it was going to take three years to see results. The goal? To take that 2-clicks-off cannon and slowly pull it into place. Little by little, we nourished the struggling plants by removing any possible competition and nursed them back to life. Reserves were building up bit by bit and in 2020 we picked the best crop to date. When it landed in the winery, we threw everything at it.

The OCEANS-8 team is of the opinion that we've nailed it. But I disagree. I have a feeling that we are yet to reach the full potential of this prodigal vineyard - and the name of the wine therefore – 1-CLICK-OFF…”

And what does it taste like? Apart from being the coolest bottle shape in the shop, this Pinot Noir is ripe lavish and powerful, full of stewed strawberry, raspberry pippy savouriness and a hint of kirsch.

 

Having worked with Pieter on an exclusive own-label white TGWS blend in the past and with autumn approaching we asked him to create a red blend.

 

Blank Bottle - The Good Wine Shop Own Label - Red Blend

 

Pieter explained to me that it is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc with a big component of Cinsault, plus some Grenache. He added it is an old school South African Bordeaux blend when the Cinsault was illegally used in the past. Cinsault was used to lubricate the old pumps and clear the small pipes as it was juicier than the smaller berried, thick-skinned Cabernets. It had the greater-than-the-sum-of-it-parts role of giving a lighter, brighter wine with more longevity.

Pieter ends by describing it as tasting somewhere between a good Bordeaux red and a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Alternatively, imagine, if you can, a youthful Chateau Musar, without any quirky volatility.

 

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