Blankbottle are a range of wines in constant flux with names and varietals changing from year to year depending on what interesting batches critically-acclaimed South African winemaker Pieter H. Walser finds on his explorations through South Africa vineyards.
Pieter explains when he first established the basic premise of the concept. “In 2004, a lady came to my house to buy wine. She asked for anything but Shiraz. “I don’t drink Shiraz”, were her exact words. I poured her a glass of wine. She loved it and bought 3 cases. It was a straight Shiraz. It’s a fact – we do judge the book by its cover.”
And so was born the idea of a range of wines that has no limitations when it comes to style, vintage, area or grape varieties. Walser’s operation is unusual because he owns no vineyards and rarely makes the same wine twice. He works only with small batches, buying grapes from around 60 vineyards “on other people’s soil” all over the Western Cape.
The whole harvest takes about 100 days to complete. “People say, ‘How can you harvest 58 vineyards?’ But I have 28 different varieties in my cellar. At the start of the year I only look at Wellington, where the grapes ripen first. Then Swartland, and as I pick the first in Swartland, I start to look at Darling, then Elgin, and so on, ending with the cabernet in Ceres Plateau.”
The labels carry an enigmatic title, a picture, hand crafted by Walser, and little else. The maker’s policy is to say nothing about the grapes or the proportions in the blend. And he takes a casual approach to more than just the label. Indeed, Walser suggests that the plan behind his technique for making his sought-after products is simply not to think too much about it. As an experimental winemaker, he changes direction every year, buying in grapes and blending them in different ways to make a natural wine. His maverick approach extends to him using bottles of different shapes – bottling, for example, a Shiraz in a Riesling bottle. (You can however find the details of the blend on the QR code on the bottle!)