“Winemaking is a feeling, an emotional act…” – John Bouwer
“The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person” – Frank Barron, Philosopher.
We live in a society where the creative minds are made to believe that they need to be more conventional, or they won’t fit in, people won’t understand what they are doing, or they will just be different… We say, “what is wrong with that”, we envy and celebrate people and winemakers like that. Just imagine we were all the same, imagine how boring life and wine will be.
In 2002 Wimpie Bouwer, father of grower/winemaker, John Bouwer, bought a farm on the west coast just outside of St Helena Bay, a mere 4km from the atlantic ocean called Brakkuil. Ancient sandy maritime, limestone-rich soils were planted in the 1970’s with Palomino and one of the rarest varieties namely Barbarossa (fewer than 4ha remain in the world). In 2006 John set out on his own and decided to follow his passion and with that he unleashed the inner-creative beast, if there is such a thing or saying.
John is one of those interesting people that you meet and you leave the conversation thinking, there is something about this guy that I like. His approach and attitude to life is almost infectious. As a self-taught winemaker, one will usually take the more cautious approach, but all of that was thrown out the window, with John’s approach… “I want to make something different; I want to be different” he replies. “I want to do something that makes the wines standout and not be part of the crowd, champion the place where it is from and what this place gives to the vineyards that grow here and the people that call this beautiful untouched part of the West Coast home.”
Within the chalk washed white walls of a small building built in the 1940s, something magical happens each year. Something that happens in only one or two cellars in this country, but very few with the consistency and success that we find on the farm of Brakkuil. A natural flor develops on the wines in John’s cellar each year, a phenomena only seen with similar success in a handful of places around the world, the likes of Jerez, in Spain where the beautiful salty, yeasty, dry mineral Fino and Manzanilla sherrys are produced and in the Jura, in France where some of the most thought provoking and individualistic wines in Europe are produced.
What is flor? In short, it is yeast, the same yeast that consumes the sugar and produces alcohol, only this one has adapted a little and lives in very harsh low oxygen, high acid and higher alcohol conditions in tanks and barrels of already fermented wines. Well, if the sugar is gone, what does it use for food and where does it get O2? This is where it gets interesting, this yeast has adapted itself; it forms on the surface of the wine where it can find O2 and feeds off alcohol and glycerol in the wine… Wait it gets real geeky, it then changes the mouthfeel and flavour profile of the wine. Now we get a little techy! The yeast consumes the alcohol and converts it to acetaldehyde a compound responsible for the yeasty, nutty, appley and almost saltiness. It also consumes glycerol in the wine, which originally gives the wine viscosity, the yeast consuming the glycerol makes the wine lighter and gives it a freshness. Finally, the flor yeast also consumes a compound in the wine called sotorol and by doing so ads the most delicious spicey, curry notes to the wine. Here in this small and dusty little corner on the West Coast, these flor aged wines flourish. Wines that send any winemaker, wine geek and the likes in a tail spin once tasted.
Unique in its style, the flor forms a veil on the wines, protecting it from the outside world in a way, locking away the freshness, while adding the most amazing complexity in terms of yeasty, spicy and almost saline freshness, which matches with so many different cuisine types. Not to mention anything that comes out of the cold Atlantic Ocean, a mere 4 km from the cellar on Brakkuil.
To further emphasise the uniqueness and individuality of GEDEELTE wines, John also produces a red wine from Barbarossa, which is scarcer than hen’s teeth and unicorns.
It is at this point we all wonder why have we not heard of these wines, this winemaker and this place before… The answer, ‘we don’t know’, maybe because the wines are a little unconventional, there is no grand estate, with well-manicured lawns and a flashy tasting room, or maybe just because John and his amazingly unique wines just don’t fit that ‘normal’ mould… Good news for him and his wines, we love everything about creative and unique people and their wines at the Wine Village. The GEDEELTE wines are available for tasting at our tasting counter.