The Wine Thieves in South Africa: The Wild Side with Pieter Walser & Peter Allan Finlayson

The Thieves embark upon a South African “wine safari” with  Pieter Walser of Blank Bottle Wines based in Sommerset West near Stellenbosch, one of the most unusual and innovative wine businesses  anywhere, and Peter-Allan Finlayson of Crystallum Wines and Gabrielskloof in the Bot River region. Finlayson is a the third generation winemaker and the son of the man who pioneered Pinot Noir winemaking in the Hemel-en-Aarde region, Peter Finlayson, the first winemaker at Hamilton Russell and the founder of Bouchard Finlayson.

You’ll get a clear sense of the fun, irreverent, and innovative nature of the SA wine industry. There’s an entire generation currently scouring the Cape for interesting vineyards and old quirky varieties and crafting a range of exciting wines with little winemaking intervention. These mavericks are playing a vital role in keeping old vines in the ground and supporting small farmers, all the while breathing fresh life into this centuries-old industry and turning the establishment upside down. These radicals of the industry run parallel to the more storied, traditional wine farms of South Africa, some of which have been producing wine for over three centuries, creating one of the most dynamic wine scenes on the planet.  

In the interview with Peter Allan and Pieter, John &  Sara get to the heart of how this multi-faceted industry arose. They’ll discuss the role of the KWV, the cooperative founded in 1918, which helped to unite wineries during a challenging period, to its current state as a cooperative company structure leaving hundreds of grape farmers looking for outlets to sell their grapes.  They’ll discover how a kind of exploratory, guerilla-style winemaking took hold and why a good sub-section of the South African wine industry seems to be hell-bent on innovation, irreverence, dispensing with so many of the wine world’s traditions. This spirit is exemplified by the  Zoo Cru, a group of likeminded winemakers of whom Peter-Allan Finlayson is a member, and who first came together under this unusual banner for the triennial Cape Wine exhibition in Cape Town in 2015, as well as other “splinter” groups of winemakers like the Swartland Revolution who take fun very seriously but not themselves as much.

You will also learn about the different wine business models that exist in South Africa, with two rather opposed business ideas espoused by our guests, but it becomes a broader discussion about how one might go about setting up a wine business, so if you’re at all considering doing so, you’ll want to strap yourselves in for this exploration of the wilder side of the South African wine industry.

This episode was produced in collaboration with Wines of South Africa. 

South Africa Wild Side Cover Art 1