Return of Smiley/Silwervis/Terracura: A Revival of One of South Africa’s Most Intriguing Wine Projects

By | 9 May 2024

For United by their love for wine, Michael Roets and winemaker Ryan Mostert embarked on an intriguing wine journey, birthing Silwervis and Terracura, two brands from the heart of Swartland, South Africa. My first encounter with Ryan and Samantha Suddons was at Reyneke, where I had the pleasure of tasting an exquisite yet unlabeled wine in 2013. This exceptional wine was a Syrah from a small vineyard near the Roundstone farm of the Mullineuxs in the Swartland, a chance offered to Ryan by Rudiger Gretschel, the leading winemaker at Reyneke. This lovely grape turned into the celebrated Leuuwenkuil Syrah Heritage, paving the way for Terracura.

The couple used to attend the Swartland Revolution, an experience they cherished deeply. It was here that Ryan forged a friendship with Roland Peens from Wine Cellar, who exposed him to world-class wines and introduced him to Michael Roets. Eventually, the couple relocated to Swartland in 2014 and kick-started an initiative, initially called Avant Garde Wines. Their initial offerings were the NV blends Smiley and Silwervis, which debuted in 2014. Michael’s ownership of the Nomblot concrete egg auctioned in the 2010 and 2011 Swartland Revolution played instrumental in creating these wines. Terracura joined the lineup with the 2015 release – a remarkable Swartland Syrah.

Although the wines were impressive, Ryan parted ways with the venture due to personal reasons, leading to Silwervis/Terracura going dormant. Ryan currently serves as a sommelier at Noble Rot in London, while Samantha makes wines under the Vine Venom label. Despite the split, Silwervis/Terracura is back, with Chris Groenwald at the helm.

Ryan’s leftover wine still rests in the cellar, and additional new wine has been blended with it, demonstrating the versatility of a non-vintage model. New iterations of Smiley have recently been released, and Terracura production is set to resume in 2023.

New releases:

Smiley Fresh White V2 NV Western Cape, South Africa
This wine’s alcohol level is 11.5%. It consists of 46% Chenin Blanc, 15% Colombard, 9% Clairette Blanc, 9% Semillon, 9% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Grenache Blanc, 60% Palomino. 52% of the blend is from 2023 and the remaining 48% is from 2022. It’s 10% skin-fermented. Bright yellow, this wine is rich, complex, and has a pristine intensity. It finishes with marmalade, dried herbs and a bright note of lemon. Score: 93/100. UK retail price: £19

Smiley White V7 NV Western Cape, South Africa
This variant has 12.5% alcohol. Its composition is 70% Chenin Blanc, 10% Semillon, 7.5% Colombard, 5% Clairette Blanc, 3.5% Grenache Blanc, 4% Palomino. It’s 57% of 2023’s vintage and 43% of 2022’s vintage. It experiences 40% skin ferment, 6% flor, and 3% maderised. The wine balances bold and complex flavours perfectly with a salty edge complemented by fruity hints of lemon, pear, and apple. It is beautifully crafted with a poignant depth, intensity, and finishes with a spicy-saline note. Score: 94/100.

Smiley Fresh Red V1 NV Western Cape, South Africa
The blend of this wine includes 43% Cinsault, 31% Syrah, 26% Carignan. Most of the blend (69%) is from 2023, while the rest (31%) is from 2022. It has a fine and floral nose. Cherry and strawberry notes are intermixed with a hint of black olive. In the mouth, the wine offers silky, rounded warmth and lovely fresh fruit. The balance is impressive: an enjoyable wine but also one with complexity. Score: 94/100.

Smiley Red V7 NV Western Cape, South Africa
The blend is composed of 58% Syrah, 23% Cinsault, 12% Touriga Nacional and 7% Tannat. It contains 65% of 2023 vintage and 35% of 2021 vintage. The nose reveals hints of olives, dried herbs, cherries, and balsamic vinegar, and is slightly lifted. The palate provides a silky and fresh experience with cherry and plum fruits enhanced with peppermint, and a touch of aniseed. The finish leaves enticing notes of sap. Excellent vitality and balance are displayed in this wine, ensuring great drinkability. The wine scores 93/100.

Silwervis Chenin Blanc 2023 Swartland, South Africa
With 67% Sky and 33% Kwerpfontein, this wine undergoes a 5-day skin maceration. It showcases a beautiful full golden hue and emits strong aromas of yellow plum, peach, apple pie, and honeydew melon. The toasted and spicy flavors combine with the sweetness of pears and peaches, and hints of rich mandarin on the palate. It strikes a balance between bold fruitiness and depth, and intensifies in the mouth without being overbearing. The finish leaves a pleasant spicy touch. The wine scores 94/100.

The previously released wines include:

Smiley ‘Fresh’ White V1 NV Swartland, South Africa
12.5% alcohol composition, this wine uses the current (2022) vintage as the backbone, supplemented with past vintages dating back to 2016. It is a blend of 76% Chenin Blanc and 24% Grenache Blanc. The nose is a mix of pear, apple, lemon and a bit of waxiness. It contains skin and oxidative elements that contribute to an overall refreshing impression. The palate is lively with fresh citrus flavors and a bright tone, complemented by juicy and vital essence and a hint of stoniness. It is a very pure and layered wine, scoring 93/100.

Smiley White V6 NV Swartland, South Africa
With an alcohol content of 12%, this wine brings forward more oxidative elements, and includes a touch of 2022 vintage. It emits minty, floral and citrusy purity intensified by high acidity. The wine artfully fuses freshness, detailed texture, and raw intensity. The palate offers a brisk, saline, and vivid experience, embodying finesse to the fullest. An expressive wine that receives a score of 94/100.

Smiley Red NV Swartland, South Africa
This wine from 2021 bears a floral, vivid, and meaty profile. With a textured and expressive character, you’ll discover delightful hints of raspberry and red cherry complemented by a stony, grainy texture. The fruit presence in this wine is remarkable making it a lovely choice demonstrating delightful fruit flavors. 94/100

Terracura Syrah 2014
Described as the unreleased first vintage, this wine originates from a farm similar to the Mullineux Iron vineyard. With only 420 bottles made, it’s distinctively fresh and peppery, introducing a bloody, savory edge to its concentrated black cherry fruit. You’ll notice a hint of iron and spice, along with notes of olive and a touch of fynbos. This wine is linear, juicy, and exhibits a pleasing presence, reflecting a very savory and European character. 94/100

Terracura Syrah 2015
With 6000 bottles of this distributed, it carries a charming gravelly, spicy black cherry, and blackberry fruit character. You can sense a savory edge here, enhanced with notes of smoke, spice, and minerals plus a hint of tar and herbs. The wine remains fresh with enjoyable tannins, and is juicy, supple with a slight bloody facet. 93/100

Terracura Syrah 2016
Out of 3700 bottles, this wine reveals a grainy texture and somewhat savory notes, presenting olive and black cherry flavours. Quite savory, you can catch some herb and mint notes. There’s an element of earthiness coupled with nice grippy tannins. It also possesses some richness, along with drying tannins. This wine is grippy, savory, and exhibits a slight baked quality to the fruit. Nonetheless, there’s the added excitement of some unique savory notes. 92/100

Terracura Trinity Syrah 2017
Only 450 bottles were produced from this single vineyard. The yield was a hearty 900 kg per hectare. It boasts of captivating aromas of black cherries, pepper, spice, and a hint of menthol. The palate is both concentrated and intense, highlighted by firm tannins, ripe blackberry and black cherry fruit. Despite its firmness, the sweetness of the fruit is well balanced with pepper, herbs, and savory meat notes. The intensity and freshness it delivers are unparalleled. Though it’s a bit grippy and firm, and may seem unyielding, it still promises potential wonder. 94/100

Terracura Syrah 2017
A total of 1400 bottles were made. Notably supple, fresh, and expressive, its flavors are a mix of black cherries, plums, and spice. Coming off as peppery and direct, it boasts lovely precision. Featuring expressive black fruits backed by firm structure, it retains some flesh with striking tar, herb, iodine, and cured meat notes. The precision and freshness it brings is an experience to savor. 95/100

Silwervis is always identified with Chenin Blanc and Cinsault, a clear inspiration drawn from the Swartland Revolution.

Silwervis Cinsault 2014 Swartland
Produced sans added sulphites and filtration, bottled straight from the egg, this silwervis strikes as cloudy and leesy in appearance. The palate is treated to a fusion of supple red cherries and herb notes coupled with pleasing freshness. It delights with juicy red cherries and hints of fine herbs. You’ll find this bottle utterly expressive, drinkable, and resolved. 93/100 (R400)

Silwervis Cinsault 2017 Swartland
Different vineyard. Minty, bright and spicy with sweet cherries, plums and blackberries as well as sweet warm spicy notes and a hint of bacon. Rich and ripe and smooth with some graininess. Mint and chocolate notes. Very rich for a Cinsault. 90/100 (R400)

Smiley Dry Red V4 NV Swartland
A wine made up of off-cuts. About 50% Cinsault, 30% Tinta Barocca and Carignan, Mourvedre and Syrah, with 2017 and 2018, and a little bit of 2016 and 2019. It also became a place of experimentation. Ripe, sleek, rich and bold with sweet blackberry and black cherry fruit, with some nice focus and freshness. Has nice juiciness with sleek fruit and appealing ripeness, but also a fresh edge. 92/100 (R170)

Silwervis Chenin Blanc 2014
Skin contact but not an orange wine. Deep yellow colour. Complex with savoury, mineral-laced citrus, pear and spice with some apple hints as well as nuts and herbs. Nice intensity with real depth of flavour, and a savoury core, but just beautifully expressive. 94/100

Silwervis Chenin Blanc 2017
Francisca farms this, the second-oldest vineyard on their farm (1964). Supple, very expressive with lovely pear and melon notes as well as lemon and cabbage hints. Fine hints of mint and fennel with astonishing precision and complexity. A touch of lemon peel, too. 96/100

Terracura White 2017
This narrative concerns a vineyard known as “The Sky,” which has been picked for the second time. The compelling aspect of it is the delightful texture and precision that mirrors the brightness of the ripe pear and citrus fruit. The weight in the mouth is commendable, complemented by a grainy, chalky texture and finishing off with some mint and fennel remarks. The vineyard’s offering is very elegant and sophisticated, and it is rated 94/100.

Smiley Chenin Blanc V5 NV Swartland
Significant inspirations for this wine were Tondonia and white Jura. This wine consists of a unique blend of 22 different wines. The description captures it as savoury and reasonably tangy, possessing an appealing savoury edge. There are instances of acid lift and some oxidative characters as well as the presence of orange peel, spice, and a savoury grip. The complexity grants this wine a lot of activity and intrigue. To prevent any complications, the wine is sterile filtered. The rating given is 92/100.

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