WINE: Q&A with self-taught Pieter de Waal on infidels and making freaky-geeky wine

flying-pigs.jpg Are you a garagiste? With Hermit on the Hill I started off as a garagiste, moved away from it, and I’m now scaling down on volumes again. Future Hermit on the Hill labels will be focused on freaky and geeky wines.

Where do you make wine? Hermit on the Hill is made in proper cellars, and I supply restaurants and wine shops. But I’ve made experimental wines in my garage and in my house. My dining room has five barrels of hobby wines next to the couch: two Shiraz, two Gamay Noir and a small barrel of Portuguese Bastardo.

What don’t people know about you? I own a 1967 Birmingham Small Arms Thunderbolt motorbike. It’s red, with pannier boxes on the side. I bought it 21 years ago.

Hermit on the Hill Infidel 2012 broke the mould when it ranked in this year’s Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 competition. Is that a big deal? Yes, it’s called The Infidel because it breaks Sauvignon Blanc winemaking rules. It tastes different because it’s made differently: the juice is exposed to air, it’s fermented with no added yeast, and spends 10 months in old barrels. I’ve only made the Infidel twice and don’t expect to make it again – the vineyard was pulled up.

Infidel.jpg Are competitions important? They’re there because consumers want to see stars and medals. The Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 2014 was the first competition I’ve entered – I wanted to show there’s space for different styles.

Memorable travel situation? I missed a flight from London to Marseille due to an accident delay on my way to the airport. I rebooked my flight and went to dinner with friends. The evening ended with a great bottle of grappa – the next morning I missed the flight again. I had to drive four hours to the only airport with a flight out that day. The rebooking charges were more than I paid for the original ticket.

What’s the deal with the Infidel label? When I married Laura, my old friend Conrad designed the label as a wedding gift. I have an honours in economics and an MBA, so the ‘pigs might fly’ is about me becoming a winemaker. There’s a slave bell because I’m not a slave to tradition. There’s a Monty Python pram because I’m a fan, and because I married at 41 and we had a child.

Your hidden talent? I once auctioned off a roll of toilet paper for R8000 and a box containing absolutely nothing for R15000. It was for charity.

See Hermit On the Hill.