“Agh I’m so sorry I’m late, ja these Cape Town roads are crazy. There’s traffic lights and everything”
In Sakkie Mouton’s hometown, there aren’t many traffic lights. He was born and raised in Vredendal. He still lives there. And the “salt of the earth” reputation that is often applied to Weskus folk certainly applies to him. I’m reminded what a pleasure it is to spend time with someone so easy-going and without pretense, as he reveals a casual honesty while talking about the recent developments in his life.
Sakkie has been the winemaker at Fryer’s Cove since the beginning of the year. It’s a fascinating winery that sits in an old fish factory, at the end of a jetty, practically in the ocean, in a village called Doringbaai. They make Sauvignon Blanc - almost exclusively - and whatever you might think of that grape, the Fryer’s Cove iterations will stop you in your tracks, largely on account of the terroir. Limestone soils and that cool Atlantic breeze make for wines full of mineral, saline goodness.
But before my mind can wander to what might happen if they had some more interesting varieties under vine, Sakkie explains his predicament with the new owners of Fryer’s Cove:
The big wine and spirits conglomerate, DGB, have just purchased the winery. It came out of nowhere, as did someone in a suit who told Sakkie that in future he’d need to handle a spreadsheet and manage staff. Sakkie politely told him that he was a winemaker, so that wasn’t going to work out.
“He asked me what I was going to do for the rest of the year, and I said “I’ve always wanted to surf, I love playing guitar, and I want to work in my vineyards, so I’m good.”
And that was that. Incidentally, there was not a hint of anger or regret, but rather a shrug and the self-assurance of someone who isn't worried and knew he wasn't right for the job. DGB is not in his DNA.
But our mention of the Douglas Green Behemoth doesn’t end here. If you’re wondering what they’re doing buying tiny wineries on the West Coast, don’t wonder too long, because it’s a calculated and (in all likelihood) a very shrewd move towards a foothold at the next frontier of South African fine wine.
Which takes us back to Sakkie. Last we heard from him, he was bringing us the second installment of Revenge of the Crayfish, the cult wine that put a spotlight on him. Greg Sherwood MW gave his maiden release a bunch of points and those 350 bottles disappeared faster than a crayfish into the kelp.
What stood out for me was that the wine tasted, quite vividly, like the West Coast. Bone dry. Salty. Mineral. Bright. Austere. And if the label made you think of seafood, well the wine was literally begging for it. It was completely unique and utterly delicious.
The second Crayfish arrived earlier this year at about the same time as lockdown, and it was a case of more of the same. This took that linear austerity to another level. The acidity is even more pronounced, the end product even more compelling. Sold out signs everywhere. Sorry, but you can only have two bottles.
Let it be said, the Crayfish might not be everyone’s cup of Chenin. But it represents something very important for South African wine.
That’s it really. The Revenge of the Crayfish, from the name to the label to the contents of the bottle to the story of how the wine came about. All of it, very refreshing. The winemaker himself: refreshing. His lack of ego: refreshing. His commitment to an ideal. His refusal to compromise on his vision. His attitude when it comes to SAWIS Certification: refreshing. The fact that he will tell his would-be employers in the middle of a pandemic, “no thanks, I’m good”.