In February 2015 I received a call from a friend offering me some Pinot Gris grapes from the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Her tank was full and there were about 100 lug-boxes filled with grapes left. So that’s how I came to make my very first Pinot Gris and a year later I bottled it. At the time, I had no longterm relationship with the vineyard, so the wine had no name.
5 months later I was sitting on the Eurostar heading from London to Paris. I had a work break in London and was heading to Paris for the weekend. The waiter on the train offered me a bottle of wine – a Pinot Gris from Alsace (a little appellation located on the German border of France). As I drank the bottle I started to think back, way back. The first time I ever encountered Pinot Gris was in Alsace, France – 18 years before. In September 1998 I worked in a little town called Heiligenstein where my boss, the owner, ran 7 hectares of grapes, mostly white. He did the true minimal intervention winemaking thing. At the time I thought he was crazy, or lazy… Apart from a little bit of Sulphur, he basically added nothing to his wines.
After Alsace I spent some time in California, where they add everything there is to add to wine and then headed off to University where they made sure I knew everything there is to know about stuff to add to wines. So in my final year at varsity I started making my own wines adding everything possible under the sun. As time passed, with Alsace methods in mind, I started questioning all these additions and subsequently started to add less and less stuff to my wines.
And, sitting there on the train travelling from London to Paris at 300 km/hour drinking my Alsace Pinot Gris, I realised that I am now making wine the way Jean-Luc Meckert in Alsace taught me to. I went the full circle and once I arrived at the point of as little additions as possible, Pinot Gris crossed my path. No coincidence there I believe. So – JEAN-LUC 2015 – a straight Pinot Gris from the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Thinking of Jean-Luc, the thing that comes to mind is his missing finger. So I took my sketch pad and a pencil and drew his hand for the label hoping I got the right finger…