This is the second release from Franco’s experimental lab program, known as ‘Proefkonyn.’ ‘Proefkonyn’ is the Afrikaans term for ‘guinea pig’ and representative of the experimental nature of this side-brand of Lourens Family. This vintage Franco made two wines under this moniker, a skin-contact Sauvignon Blanc and an ancestral method Chenin Blanc. This wine comes from two sites in the cool enclave of the Walker Bay area. Franco wanted to capture the most intense, pure essence of Sauvignon Blanc and thought a week on skins would really intensify those notes without adding too much tannin. He considers this a skin contact wine and not a skin macerated wine, thus less dense and tannic than one would think.
The grapes were hand-harvested overnight and placed into small lug boxes then brought back to the winery where they were carefully destemmed but not crushed. The grapes were then placed into a single small one ton fermenter and the grapes’ weight naturally crushed some of the berries toward the bottom and a light bit of skin contact occurred. After a week the grapes were pressed to half old French oak and half local clay pots to finish fermentation. The wine sat unsulfured on the primary lees for ten months prior to being blended to tank where it settled naturally. The wine was bottled without fining or filtration and just a small addition of sulfur.
Green pepper is the first note that would come to mind and that is an easy tone to hang onto. The nose is is green, but not just vegetal. Spicy green flowers, pistachios, and green apple freshness open this savage and entrancing wine. It has loads of texture on the palate with a saltiness coming into the mix and energetic citrus notes persisting. There is a feint hint of salted almonds on the lengthy and precise finish. It is zippy and very easy to fall in love with.
At what point does the pupil begin to educate the teacher? It is a relevant question to Franco Lourens, who has spent the past few years as the prodigious Chris Alheit’s right hand, putting more and more of his time into his eponymous wines. Butch, as Chris is better known, and Franco share a winemaking space in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley and Franco is quick to thank Butch for guidance in vineyard selection as well as winemaking practices.
Franco grew up surrounded by vines in Paarl, but not in a farming or winemaking family. Early on he thought it would be ideal to have free and unlimited wine at his disposal…idealism at its core. He would ride his bicycle by vineyards and see countless trucks full of grapes driving down the road and this is what generated that winemaking desire from within. While at the University of Stellenbosch he really fell in love with Rhône varieties, but it wasn’t until after his travels in Margaret River working at Vasse Felix and in Sonoma working alongside David Ramey that he truly found the style of wine he wanted to make. Franco worked in many cellars back home in South Africa getting a better appreciation for the vastness of the Cape as well as immense diversity of grapes, soils and climate. He works with vineyards literally spread throughout the Cape, from a site in the suburbs of Cape Town north to Piekenierskloof and as far east as Wellington.
Franco’s wines have a precision and totality rarely seen in a brand this young. The wines are more mature than one would expect and clearly Franco leans on the experiences and personalities that have come into his life along this journey. The future is incredibly bright for Franco and his family. In a short, but sustainable time, he has crafted some of South Africa’s most exciting and in-demand wines.