Johan Meyer was in London for a whirlwind of visits this week, we caught up with him to taste the newly arrived Mother Rock and Brutal! wines.
Johan feels that the vineyards in South Africa got back of track in 2021 following the string of drought years. For the 2021 vintage they had a wet winter, cool spring and warm summer. He currently buys grapes across the Swartland, and has worked organically with the farms he sources from since 2012, but has difficulty persuading the growers to certify, he’s not sure why they’re so resistant to it.
He bought his own land in the north of Swartland in 2018, where he has built a house and a winery, and planted vines. He’ll pick the first grapes from his farm next year. This area is quite different to the south where the majority of planting currently are. Soils are Table Mountain sandstone. The days are warm with temperatures rising to 30 degrees, and the nights cool, dropping to 11 degrees. The name, Picket-Bo-Berg, translates as lookout in Afrikaans, you can see the ocean 30 kilometres away, and the site benefits from cool sea breezes.
It’s virgin land, Johan has planted 14 hectares so far, including half a hectare of Sauvignon Blanc which he wasn’t planning to do, but the soil analysis recommended it. Additionally he has a mix of reds and whites including Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Palomino. He’s working to get the area recognised as a Ward within Swartland, it’s a cooler climate the the lower Swartland where grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wouldn’t make sense.
Force Celeste Semillon 2021
Johan picks the grapes in two stages: a green first harvest for acidity; and a second pick a week later for more concentration. Around 10% is fermented on skins to bring a little texture.
Very fresh green juice, hedgerows and elderflower with a touch of passionfruit. The acidity is soft like ripe lemons with a long concentrated finish.
Brutal! Chenin 2021
Brutal! is Catalan slang for ‘cool’, the idea for the label was born at Bar Brutal in Barcelona when three winemakers, including Joan Ramon Escocda were drinking one night. The wines are made by different producers, what they have in common is that they are distinct from their other wines, and there is no added sulphur. For Johan’s cuvee he foot -crushes the grapes, then closes the tank allowing a semi-carbonic fermentation to run for 14 days, before finishing the wine in concrete. The wine has a lifted yellow apply nose, mouth-watering acidity and a long juicy tropical fruit finish.
Liquid Skin 2021
Chenin for Liquid Skin comes from a southeast facing site in Paardeberg, which is cooler than the Brutal vineyard. Johan crushes the grapes, but keeps the stems, and ferments them in concrete tank. 30% of the wine spends eight months on skins, the rest just 12 weeks giving a gentle copper hue. The 2021 has a delicate texture, juicy acidity and a squeaky clean green apple and apricot finish.
Brutal! Red 2021
Cinsault grown in the Swartland has high pH and low acid, making it tricky material for a low sulphur wine. To counter this Johan he picks some Carignan early, he presses off the juice to make his Force Celeste Rosé, but keeps the pomace and ferments Cinsault juice on these skins. The result is a zesty red with plummy fruit, a savoury touch and a mineral finish.