The Blacksmith Wines
The traditional craft of a blacksmith requires the utmost skill, patience, precision and meticulous attention to detail. Tremayne Smith invests his winemaking with these attributes, and like the artisan blacksmiths he admires, delivers carefully handmade products to his growing band of followers. Each step, each phase in the process is carefully considered as he applies himself to the production of quality artisanal wines.
WRITTEN BY RUSSEL WASSERFALL
IMAGES COURTESY BLACKSMITH WINES
Striking labels and vintages that explore the hidden life of cultivars make Tremayne’s wine popular on wine lists and wine bar shelves.
The Blacksmith Wines focus on naturally handcrafted wines which use mindful practices to honour source vineyards. No acid or enzymes are added, and only native yeasts are used in fermentation. The result is a collection of bold, fun and unpretentious wines which suit the everyday palate but aspire to satisfy the soul.
Tremayne’s ability to balance the pairing of wines and food can be attributed to his stint in the culinary scene. Before he pursued winemaking at Elsenburg, one of South Africa’s leading agricultural colleges, he trained as a chef. As both skilled cook and winemaker, Tremayne has the insight to tease both nose and palate with an enticing combination of flavour and texture.
His unique approach means sourcing fruit from pockets of old vines dotted around the coastal regions of South Africa. With emphasis on Rhône varietals, Tremayne practices patience, allowing time for natural ferments to occur. He seeks out precise expressions South Africa’s terroir in the grapes while meticulously attending to detail in contemporary global cellaring techniques.
Keen to learn more about the craft, Tremayne (right) linked up with maverick South African vintner Jaco Engelbrecht for the production of some of his finest vintages.
Tremayne’s winemaking has its roots at Sijnn Wines on the Breede River, after which he moved to the Swartland to work with the iconic Mullineux Family Wines. He finally settled down in the Ceres region as head winemaker at Fable Mountain Vineyards. With a wealth of experience and the desire to craft beautiful handmade wines, he launched his personal label ‘The Blacksmith Wines’ in 2014. He wanted his wines to intrigue the palate but still be quaffable.
The Cape’s weather, and therefore its terroir, is unstable. This is a wild place with inconsistent harvests and constant environmental challenges. Tremayne knew he needed to identify and work with varietals that were thriving and able to withstand the dissonant Cape weather. This means Rhône varietals and collaboration with local farmers in the more remote corners of the Cape. Much of the fruit comes from very old, low-yielding vineyards but the result is distinct and exclusive wines.
The rigour applied to sourcing the fruit is carried through in the cellar. Wines are fermented with native yeasts to truly accentuate the origins of the bare fruit. Only the minimum of sulphur is used when required. Commitment to producing lively, vibrant wines with notable structure has earned The Blacksmith Wines a significant following. Some of Cape Town’s top restaurants and bars proudly display the quirky labels in their venues.
Blacksmith Wines challenges every aspect of traditional cellar culture, from the length of the winemaker’s beard to the appearance of the label. The white Blacksmith Barebones Colombard is available at Vinmonopolet.
A revelation rides in with The Blacksmith’s celebration of mother nature herself, Tremayne worked with viticulturist Jaco Engelbrecht of Visual Viticulture to create The Four Horsemen. Honouring the turmoil of nature, The Four Horsemen symbolically bring order to the chaos and harsh elements Cape vineyards are enduring due to climatic change.
For Horsemen, a progressive catalogue of wines, the friends started by choosing vineyards that fostered hardy cultivars. In the spirit of consolidating mother nature, they wanted cultivars that would stand the test of time. Off-the wall vineyards in scattered locations with reputations for thriving amidst radical climate shifts produce Chenin, Carignan and Grenache for their mighty work. “These cultivars celebrated chaos and a changing environment, and did not rage against it,” says The Blacksmith.
Tremayne has really come into his own with the small-batch, bespoke wines. He and Jaco lined up a new viticulture venture for The Blacksmith Wines called The Flash Series. This new adventure is a collection of wines named after flash tattoos which are quick and small palm-sized tattoos. Similar in scale, The Flash Series focuses on limited bottlings, producing only 300 to 600 units per label.
Living among the vines provides tremendous inspirations to Tremayne Smith who relies heavily on his training and experience as a fine dining chef to guide his adventures in the cellar.
Tremayne’s adoration of striking art and tattoos inspired the intricate designs of the; small, emblematic and distinct. The artworks were designed by veteran tattoo artist and ink maven Tamar Thorn, craftsman behind Tremayne’s personal tattoos. Each one tells a piece of Tremayne’s life story, so does each bottle in The Flash Series.
The Bloodline, a 100% Chenin Blanc ancestrale with Swartland origins, was initially created in 2014 for his wedding to honour his bride, Michelle. When a newer vintage was made in 2017, he named it The Bloodline to recognise their infant daughter Isla Rose. The Bloodline 2019 vintage is now available with its distinctive rose tattoo label.
In the spirit of uncharted cultivars, the next wine of The Flash Series comes from the lesser-known and rare Durif vineyard, in which the vines will twist and fork, mirroring a snake tongue. The serpent of the vineyards, The Basilisk, is 100% Durif with Paarl origins.
Keeping up with the calamities of nature, the vineyard used for The King’s Spirit has changed each year, ensuring the best possible outcome to live up to the given name. With Chenin being the most widely planted varietal in South Africa, therefore named “The King”, The King’s Spirit is 100% Chenin Blanc with Wellington origins.
Tremayne defies the stereotype of the classic winemaker. Inked sleeves tattoos and a full beard goes against the grain in the vineyards – and so does the A-Series. The Blacksmith’s newest collections is an ode to Indie lifestyles. It presents three distinct labels; Helix, Flesh and Bone and Reap What You Sow which have caused quite a stir.
The 2019 Helix is a 50% Semillon, 50% Semillon Gris with Swartland origins and is exquisitely unique. The beauty of the Helix bottle lies in the mutation of Semillon to Semillon Gris, where one year the grapes will be red in colour, and the next harvest they will have mutated to white. Naturally, this nuance is encapsulated in the label design with alternative shading on the helix and each strand being a different colour, representing the Semillon mutation. Upon closer inspection, the strands of the Helix are formed with bones. This opens the door to the next wine of this series – the 2019 Flesh and Bone.
A pure Chenin Blanc of Paarl origin, this is a skin-macerated wine with the juice fermented on the skins for 14 days. Tremayne’s concept for Flesh and Bones was to use the grape in its entirety, skin on seed with fleshy nectar in which all of the elements naturally unfold to deliver a juice true to the cultivar.
In his approach to 2019 Reap What You Sow, another 100% Chenin Blanc, this time from The Swartland, he set out to showcase dynamics of the relationship between the farmer, the land and the grape. It is a radical wine with a wide-eyed ambition. Does it strike the anvil at the perfect angle? Only a walk through The Blacksmith Wines’ creations and an engagement with a totally new kind of winemaker, like Tremayne Smith, can answer that.
Available at Vinmonopolet
12599701 The Blacksmith Barebones Cinsault 2020
Cinsault 100% kr 199,90
12599601 The Blacksmith Barebones Colombard 2020
Colombard 100% kr 189,90
12599801 The Blacksmith Hell Yeah Pinotage 2019
Pinotage 100% kr 209,90
12633001 The Horsemen The Red Rider Carignan 2018
Chardonnay 100% kr. 249,90 (sold out for the moment)