Smiley, Silvervis, Terracura – a well-shaped offering

The coming of the fine Terracura Syrah 2015 brings an important new element into what is now a well- and intelligently-shaped family of “natural”-inclined Swartland wines – the other two parts being Smiley and Silwervis, each with a red and a white. The latest vintages of all these were released last week, at the old Voor-Paardeberg farm called Staart van Paardeberg, where the wines are made by Ryan Mostert in rented space. The team would have preferred a Swartland home, but none was easily available, so this is a pretty nearby solution for now.

That team is as well and intelligently shaped for success as the family of wines, and it too has been assembled over the years. The origins of the project lie in the purchase by finance-man Michael Roets of a concrete “egg” (to be filled with chenin blanc) at the charity auction at the inaugural Swartland Revolution in 2010. It was scribbled over with contact details of those subscribing to buy the future wine (I’m happy to say mine was among them – see here for a bit more about that first Silwervis wine). And the Silwervis chenin is still made in that same concrete egg, though the names and email addresses are fading…..

Winemaker Ryan Mostert (photos by Maree Louw)

By the 2013 Swartland Revolution, the rest of the team had been assembled: Cape Town online retailer Roland Peens (Wine Cellar), and, to make the wines from this point on, young Ryan Mostert, previously at Reyneke Wines in Stellenbosch, and committed to a hands-off approach.

The Smiley wines were introduced, as quintessential blends: multi-vintage wines made from numerous parcels  – the white especially about as far as could be from your average fruity white, behind the funky label that’s about as far as could be from good taste (a sheep’s head ready for eating). The new release (all chenin) is half from 2017, with components from the previous three vintages, and including wines made, respectively, with skin contact, under flor, and deliberately oxidised. It’ll remind you at least fleetingly of old-style Rioja and of Jura’s vin jaune; it’s beautifully dry, fresh and rather sumptuously textured for a lightish wine. (All these are around 12.5% alcohol, which is a brilliant level for ensuring both freshness and some full vinosity.) Don’t expect fruitiness and you won’t be disappointed. It’s savoury and rather delicious, unaggressive but uningratiating; a great food partner I have no doubt, like all these wines.

Smiley Red is also half from 2017, with contributions from 2016 and 2015; 80% equal mourvèdre and cinsaut, with syrah and a little tinta barroca. For drinking now, this is my favourite of the wines on the tasting: it begins with modestly perfumed aromas, echoing with wildness and charming rusticity, complex and dried-herbal, continuing with a great, bright freshness, and ending with waves of flavour carried by a really fine (typically Swartland) tannic structure. Like the White, to be found in hipster wine bars from Cape Town to Tokyo. And presumably they’ll all be available from winecellar.co.za – rather strangely, they still weren’t listed at the time of this being published.

Both Smileys cost R150, and I’d say they were good value. The Silvervis pair are R375 and, well, I’m less sure about the good value bit, though quality and interest are there. The 2015 Chenin is from one Paardeberg vineyard (and made in the aforementioned egg). Ryan seems to like the reductive (rather funky) note on the aroma, as a good partner to the oxidative one, but I’m a touch less convinced. But there is also pleasing, elegant freshness, plenty of savoury flavour to give good length – that length marked by a firmly grippy phenolic element. A rather fascinating wine, but not one for the uninitiated (and perhaps not even for all the initiated).

The Silvervis Cinsaut 2015 is definitely on the serious side of wines from this fashionable variety, kept on the skins for a while to tame the showy perfumes that mark the more frivolous side of things – and in fact it’s less perfumed than the Smiley. Rather deeper-toned than the Smiley, too, perhaps surprisingly, and with a similar great tannic structure; and fresh, clean and elegant, pleasingly textured, and with a core of subtle sweet fruit. Should develop rather well, I’d guess.

Terracura Syrah 2015, the new wine, was rightly the focus of attention on the launch day. It’s an extremely good wine, somewhere approaching the stellar heights of the top Swartland syrahs – Porseleinberg, Leeuwenkuil, Mullineux. From six vineyards, covering three soil types. Perhaps one day, says Ryan, there’ll be a single-vineyard version, depending on growing control over vineyard sources. Spice and herbs control a lovely sweet-ripe element; the acidity is high, the texture fine, the savoury tannins in great balance; as with all these wines, the finish is emphatically dry, which is a great treat. The price at the launch was the same as the Silvervis pair, but I think it’ll be more costly retail – it’s certainly the superior wine, and a welcome addition to the Swartland repertoire. Interestingly, of the 6000 bottles, 2000 are to be kept back for release at a later date, which is an excellent idea.

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