Nothing to Declare

This time I decided to play a game. I will be looking at a wine label from a particular winery, and I will try to make inferences about the character of the winemaker. I may end up totally wrong, but I thought it might be fun to work the other way around. Many people choose wines from the label on the bottle, without having a clue about wine or the particular wine. What could this label bring to mind.

I was offered a bottle of Nothing to Declare 2016, from the BLANK bottle winery (http://www.blankbottle.co.za/) in South Africa, as a present. This bottle actually got me thinking about my naughty idea. Writing about a wine I have never tasted, a winemaker I have never met and a winery I have never seen. I did do one thing though, which is half a cheater on my part. I took a look at the winery website, the labels of the other wines of the winery, and looked at a picture of the winemaker.

It all started by looking at the label of the wine I was given. As I took it in hand, I thought to myself, “mmm, this is something different. Naughty, bold, provocative, interesting. This is definitely ‘illegal’,” and for some reason I pictured a shed in some godforsaken place of the South, during the Prohibition, making illegal alcohol. My thoughts continued, “this is a cross between graffiti and comics. More in the Goth style of comics.”

Then I looked up the website of the winery, which just confirmed my original notion. “This guy is MISCHIEVOUS”, but in a way that is ticklish and makes you want to know more about him. I also took a peek at his picture. “Mmm, and good looking, too!” The image that sprung to mind was Peter Fonda in the 1969 Easy Rider film. Something a little bit ‘hippie’, about him.

So, this is what I decided about Pieter H. Walser. He is unconventional, cheeky, opinionated, with a liking to the more rugged and free-spirited making of things. The label I took in my hands is captivating. So, he must like standing out. I read that he came about this idea as a token to the winemakers who used to smuggle cuttings into South Africa from Europe, during the times of the Apartheid, when free commerce was not allowed in the country. I thought that was touching and showed respect, gratitude and sensitivity. So, what initially seems like a tough cookie, may actually have a soft centre to it. Definitely creative and talented. All of his labels are a story in themselves. All, very distinctive and personal. All designed by himself.  

Christian Eedes of Winemag.co.za on Dec 4, 2015 refers to Pieter Walser winning the Grand Prix inaugural Wine Label Design Awards and has a picture of the Nothing to Declare label with a caption that says “Wicked”. https://winemag.co.za/blankbottle-nothing-to-declare-2014/ I so agree with him. I was racking my brain for the right words to describe Walser, and Eedes put it in a single word. Yes, ‘wicked’ says it all.

I like Walser and I haven’t even tried his wine yet. Since it’s a 2016, I thought it might be a good idea to keep, for a while, before I try it. I could probably go on rambling and making inferences, about the choice of the words BLANKbottle, about his other labels. I think I will leave it here for now. Nevertheless, one thing is certain. Next time I visit South Africa, I will make a point of meeting this man.