For heavyweight Cape Town-based architects Derick Henstra and Peter Fehrsen, it’s not the roof wetting of their newest building that has them waxing lyrical, but rather their first foray into winemaking. And no surprises that it’s a Pinot Noir, under the aptly named Black Block label. As you’d expect, the packaging is attractively minimalist.
Derick and Peter call their debut wine release ‘the realisation of a lifelong dream’. The dhk architects have worked together for nearly 20 years, and share a lifelong interest in wine. They’ve also been partners in fine wine retail store Wine Concepts since 1998, so the desire to make their own wine was ‘a natural step to take’.
They sourced the Pinot grapes from a single block of a high-lying mountain vineyard in the Tulbagh district, with the wine crafted in the 300-year-old Nabygelegen winery in Wellington district, owned by James Mackenzie.
Derick describes the Black Block Pinot Noir, which retails at R170 (find it at Wine Concepts), as ‘robust but elegant, rich in dark cherry fruit and almonds on the palate’.
We asked them to tell us more about Black Block and their winemaking endeavours…
Wine has been your hobby for some time – did you get involved in any hands-on way in a cellar previously?
(Peter) This is my first sojourn into winemaking.
(Derick) I’ve fiddled around helping make and blend Chardonnay in the past. I also worked on a farm picking grapes and helped out with crushing at a friend’s winery.
Can you remember that epiphanic moment when you decided to go for it? And what led you to James and Nabygelegen?
We had always toyed with the idea of making wine, and for many years we thought about buying a farm. We were introduced to James Mackenzie from Nabygelegen by a fellow wine club member, and suddenly we were off – no doubt fuelled by Dutch courage!
How long did it take you to find the perfect vineyard?
It was James Mackenzie who suggested the vineyards to us.
You’re longtime fans of Pinot – any particular estates you enjoy?
We have been Pinot Noir aficionados even before it became popular in SA. We’ve been watching it grow from the first Pinot Noirs made at Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson, to the very latest boutique wineries.
We are really excited that so many people have taken to growing Pinot Noir with great success, and so many different styles are developing. We are very keen on pursuing an inland, bolder type of Pinot Noir and are exploring the potential at the moment.
Do you think it’s apt that, as architects, you went for the most difficult of cultivars to work with?
Yes! Isn’t that typical of architects, to take the hardest route? We wanted to do something unique, not make what everyone else was making. It’s the least understood cultivar and that’s what we wanted to explore, and it started as a hobby so we had the time to experiment. We knew it was a challenge but we said ‘let’s do it.’
Did you have any ‘heartbreak’ moments with the grape yourselves?
This is the heartbreak grape. It hasn’t happened yet but we’re prepared for it.
What sort of feedback have you had from within the wine industry?
So far, we’ve had fantastic feedback. It’s been immensely rewarding. We know that our next vintage (which was bottled recently) will be even better.
When will you be opening a bottle? Is it a special occasion wine or something you’ll enjoy with mid-week pizza?
It’s actually such a versatile wine, and our style in particular is a bit more full-bodied and so more of a food wine. We’re inclined to open a bottle for any occasion – from an early evening drink to a serious dinner.
So what’s next? Will you be adding further reds – or perhaps a white or bubbly – to the range?
No, definitely not any more reds. We’re investigating old vine Chenin – so watch this space!
Want more inspiration?
For exclusive Wall and Floor ideas, tips & info, check out the June 2015 Art Issue, on sale 18 May