Every year when I travel to Europe to sell wine, I try and fit in a short visit to a wine area for inspiration. Last year I had an opportunity to go to the Rhone, Southern France. Normally, I purposefully avoid imitating what’s out there, but it does sometimes happen that one of the European greats remind me of nuances I’ve picked up in some of my vineyards in the past. This then fuels a drive to enhance these unique characteristics into something that still represents the vineyard and area, but is inspired by the wine rulers of Europe. Today I am releasing 2 of these inspired drinks.
BLANKBOTTLE OPPIE-KOPPIE 2017 – a Voor-Paardeberg Shiraz – R210 a bottle
BLANKBOTTLE TBC – A non-vintage, Stellenbosch Viognier – R190 a bottle
Please note that we are currently in the process of creating a new website. With the amount of past and present wines and vintages, the old site became increasing more difficult to navigate your way around in search of specific wine info. We’ll also be changing the ordering procedure, but for now please e-mail us with your order or questions, and we’ll reply with a e-mail and invoice. Also see below for other wines that’s available and selling now. You are welcome to make up mixed cases if you like.
OPPIE-KOPPIE – The story
Back in 2014, I was walking through an organically-farmed Shiraz vineyard in the Voor-Paardeberg. It was close to brunch time, so I picked a bunch of grapes and stripped the berries off the stem. I was left with a clean stem. I then ate the stem. Pure pepper spice!
It immediately triggered an idea: if I ferment the wine without removing the stems (a.k.a. whole bunch fermentation), chances were that I could possibly extract some of that exciting spice. So I chucked 33.33333% of the total volume of grapes into a fermentation vessel (stems and all) and crushed it with my feet. With the balance of the grapes, I removed the stems using a de-stemmer and filled the tank. All the grapes then underwent spontaneous fermentation. After 4 weeks, I pressed the grapes and the wine aged in barrel for a year. When the time came for label design, I did a pencil drawing of an old-fashioned film camera taking a photo of a grape-stem. I blackened the camera lens in such a way that only one third of the stem was exposed to the camera. I then called the wine 33.3333.
In 2015, the stems were super ripe and I decided to do 100% whole bunch fermentation. On the label I altered the sketch in order for the camera lens to have a 100% exposure to the stem.
2016, the stems were ripe, but not as ripe as the 2015 vintage, so I went for 70% exposure.
When it came to the 2017 vintage I decided that, in order for this wine to get to the next level, it needed more complexity. The only way to gain complexity is to add vineyards with flavour profiles that would enhance and add layers to the original wine. A little bit of Shiraz from the Swartland and a tad Cinsaut from the Breedekloof did the trick. Having had 80% whole cluster fermentation, I initially called the wine 80.0000 (referring to the percentage exposure to stems as in previous years), but this was confusing to my clients. I then changed the name to Oppie-Koppie, the name the farmer calls the vineyard – a 2017 Voor-Paardeberg Shiraz (my 4th vintage from this block of grapes). Northern Rhône-like in style, super spicy with nice grip. Ageing will only do this wine great but you can also drink it now.
TBC 2018 – The story
I spent 4 days driving from Avignon all along the Rhône river through Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Condrieu to Côte Rôtie. It was fascinating and invigorating. Condrieu’s wines (or rather the ones I tasted), were mineral, fresh and lean with depth in character and complexity – and made from Viognier – a varietal we struggle with in South Africa.
SA Viognier are mostly over extracted, rich, sweet and floral. I have access to a really nice block of Viognier on the slopes of the Helderberg mountain facing Stellenbosch. I have been making wine from that block since 2012, but, up until today have only used it in blends. So I decided to do an experiment. We picked the vineyard in two sections. The first picking on a relatively low sugar and a second picking as a ripe component. A combination of the two were aged for 2 years in old small barrel French Oak – 50% of the final blend. The other 50% was an early picking of the same vineyard the following year. In other words; the final wine is 50% early picking that spent one year in barrel (2018 vintage) and the other 50% a combination of early and late picking aged 2 years in barrel (2017 vintage).
And I had no name for the wine. You know, it does happen that sometimes the name and label of a wine just doesn’t happen when it should… My distributers pressured me to get the wine out and after a suggestion by one of the reps, the name became TBC – To Be Confirmed.
The label: my youngest son had his 7th birthday party and wanted me to make him a leopard cake – in 3D of course… To shape a leopard body is easy, but a head of a leopard is massively difficult to do. So, I made a paper mache head of a leopard and painted it. And the label became the infamous leopard cake head.