The Smokkelman

The Smokkelman

Sometime around early 2021, we found ourselves knee-deep in human muck. Two businesses under, a few bouts of Covid deep and staring down the third round of ruthless schoolyard brawling, toe to short-stubby-little-toe, with the erratic Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. All the while headmaster Rhamaphosa tried to stop the rest of the convocation emptying the stationary cupboards while we were distracted and scraping it out.

We needed a drink! A good drink. And we were certainly not willing to pay exorbitant prices for abandoned plonk previously destined for some wine waiter’s self fellating private label.

Luckily, I knew a girl who had a cousin, who knew a guy who could get some vino. I’d never met the man myself. But, some said that he’d had an affair with Tim Atkin. That we should be wary as he once got into a bar fight with Jancis Robinson. All we knew was that he had some epic juice, a slight lisp, and irrational fear of green peppers.

Our initial tasting was nervously conducted out of surprisingly pristine glassware from the back of an old Isuzu bakkie. In a potholed parking lot with the sun throwing long shadows against the peeling paint of the local SAPS offices.

With what sounded like a mix of something between a Malmesbury brei and a Boerboel drinking water at three in the morning. The mysterious man explained how he smokkeled only the best batches of wine from some of the most prestigious cellars in the Cape to blend two quintessentially South African wines. Non-vintage, and batch specific. Allowing him the freedom to build complexity with a little age. Not a cent wasted on expensive bottles, elaborate labels, or fancy closures. Only the best value for money wine our depressed currency could buy. Sold at cellar door prices, since prohibition, with all proceeds going to struggling winemakers.

The white is made up of Stellenbosch and Paarl Chenin Blanc with a touch of old vine Franschhoek Semillon. Completely destemmed, gently pressed into concrete kuipe, spontaneously fermented at cool temperatures, settled and racked into old oak barrels where it lay undisturbed on the fine lees for seven months before being blended and bottled.

The wine’s pale yellow like the faded police vans he evaded in his youth. With aromas reminiscent of stealing the neighbours' orchard fruit on a warm summer's afternoon. Ripe pear, quince, and green apple mingle with fynbos-esque white flowers and a faint hint of gunsmoke before giving way to a palate of juicy white fruit, with a slightly waxy herbal finish.

I’d say this wine can be drunk now or cellared for up to five years. But he says he prefers it served young and fresh with canned sardines and apricot jam on toast. You, however, can enjoy it with any char-grilled seafood, white meat, or starchy vegetables, particularly if accompanied by fruit-based sauces or a bit of aromatic spice.

The red is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon from the windswept slopes of the Helderberg. Matured for two years in older oak, blended with parcels from the Elgin and Vlottenburg in Stellenbosch, and finished with a very special dash of Cinsault from a gnarly old block in Agter Paarl.

The wine is bright red, like a prime baboon matriarch's bottom, thanks to a healthy wallop of that Cinsault. With aromas reminiscent of smuggling those pink lekkertjies and wine gums in your Space Case under an old school bench. Upfront aromas of strawberry, rosewater, red- and blackcurrant all wrapped in a bouquet of pencil shavings, cedarwood, crumpled up crib-notes, and something slightly musky, broody, unidentifiable, but strangely satisfying.

This wine can be drunk now or cellared for up to seven years. And, according to him, he enjoys nothing more than serving it with chutney flavoured biltong bites dipped in peanut butter. But you can enjoy it with most red meat dishes, rich stews, and even powerful savoury vegetarian dishes like arrabbiata with thick starchy tagliatelle.

We still don’t know much about this mysterious man. But this sommelier has it on good authority that he favours the Polkadraai Hills. Where some say you can see him perched on a barrel, glass in hand, performing alchemy in the dead of the night. And that if you say his name three times loudly backward, Julias Malema spontaneously soils himself.

All we know is he hustles some fantastic vino and that they call him Die Smokkelman.

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