I guess I should start with a quick explanation of how the name for this range came about, and expand a little on why I have this range that is, on the surface of it, so different to my Kershaw wines.
In the 1970s the South African wine industry was stagnating and winemakers watched international demand for Chardonnay soar but knew it would take years to get new vines through the local quarantine process imposed by the Government so they smuggled them in to the country using whatever means they could, one of which was hiding vine cuttings in their boots. Although they broke the law, a commission found that they had been acting in the best interests of the industry. I chose to celebrate their ingenuity and that of all pioneering winemakers with the Smuggler’s Boot range.
The Smuggler’s Boot wines are essentially an extension of my Kershaw Clonal Selection wines. The parcels of grapes that are chosen on an experimental basis – I regard them as experimental as they don’t necessary lend themselves to be chosen for the Kershaw clonal selection or GPS range at first sight yet in all cases the soils and location display an intriguing or interesting feature.
Some parcels are simply young vines that I buy in order to start a contract with a farmer, others are grapes that don’t fit into our Kershaw range which focuses on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Equally, when I select parcels to begin with, I don’t always know the direction the flavour profile will take.
In the cellar, I will usually conduct small batch natural fermentation and look at expected outcomes. However, those outcomes may differ depending on what the vineyard yielded.
A great example is this year an excellent grower from whom I have been buying Pinot Noir for many years offered me some young vine Chardonnay. He had planted 3 different clones and was keen to gain insight into each of his blocks. He was keen that since we do single parcel fermentations using several barrels and eggs, we could start to learn what flavour profile each parcel has and how best to make the wine. Being young vines, they tend to exhibit more fruit flavour and often good acidity with focus but can lack some structure. By separately fermenting the blocks we have gained some considerable insight from this year’s harvest and will continue to learn over the coming vintages. Already we have seen huge potential for 2 of the clones to be included in my Kershaw wines, probably not this year or next year, but certainly in the near future. The third clone still needs some work and being a top farmer, I am sure this will unfold as he gets more understanding on the wine that can be produced.
In addition in the winery, these experimental parcels – often 2-3 tons – are fermented not just in barrels but we play with eggs – breathable plastic/polymer, ceramic or concrete, and work on what flavours are being generated during ferment and maturation.
In my next blog post I’ll focus on the Smuggler’s Boot SBS or Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon.