Pieter Walser is one of the most innovative winemakers in the world, and is the producer of some of SA’s most coveted wines that you’ve probably never tasted. Within BLANKbottle there are no 2 wines alike and about 30% of the wines are one-off limited editions. Pieter crafts unique wine blends, picking about 35 grape varieties from 60 vineyards around the Cape. Each of his wines is bottled and labelled according to the unique story behind it. The main aim of BLANKbottle wines is to provide an honest, personal taste with no preconceived expectations that come with certain vintages or styles.
The tale behind the name BLANKbottle is that 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.
Like a Hunter S Thompson of South African winemaking – Pieter has scoured the Cape Winelands – from Paarl to Stellenbosch to Robertson and the Swartland – in search of complementary fruit to create this gorgeous, spicy, pithy, endlessly complex white blend. This is gonzo winemaking – a cuvée which makes use of all the out-there, uncommon varieties that Pieter has uncovered on his adventures. To make things even better this cuvée is delicious with olive tapenade on toast and with fish like red mullet served with olive tapenade, or even just some fish with fresh leaves and a squeeze of lemon. Pieter conceived this wine as a tribute to the vine smugglers of South Africa – the risk-takers who have provided winemakers like Pieter and others of the new generation in South Africa the foundation to take this South African wines to new heights.
Why ‘Nothing to Declare’? Back in the day, some of the most pioneering winemakers from South Africa, California and beyond would travel to Old World wine-producing countries they admired and take vine cuttings which they would smuggle back to their homeland by any means necessary. One method, depicted by Pieter on the label to his Nothing To Declare, was to tie the cuttings to their legs, under their trousers, and casually stroll through the exit marked ‘NOTHING TO DECLARE’ at the airport.