Smiley/Silwervis/Terracura are back! One of South Africa’s most interesting wine projects returns

One of South Africa’s quirkiest and most interesting wine projects was Silwervis and Terracura, a two-branded winery born in the Swartland, and a collaboration between Michael Roets and winemaker Ryan Mostert. Ryan and Samantha Suddons were a couple I met when they were working at Reyneke, and I remember tasting a very interesting wine on a visit there in 2013. It was unlabelled, and it was amazing. Ryan had been offered some Syrah from a small vineyard just below the Roundstone farm of the Mullineuxs in the Swartland in 2012, and Rudiger Gretschel, chief winemaker at Reyneke, told him to go for it. It became the Leuuwenkuil Syrah Heritage, and this was later to lead to Terracura.

Ryan and Samantha would come out for the Swartland Revolution, and he says that every time they returned home they left a bit of them behind. Ryan became friends of Roland Peens from Wine Cellar, who introduced him to the great wines of the world, and he also introduced him to Michael Roets. They ended up moving to the Swartland in 2014, and the project they began was initially named Avant Garde Wines, with the first releases being non-vintage blends called Smiley and Silwervis beginning in 2014. Michael had bought the Nomblot concrete egg that was auctioned off in the 2010 Swartland Revolution, and also the one auctioned at the 2011 event, so this was used for these wines. The revolution was the inspiration for these wines, which were made from Chenin Blanc and Cinsualt. Terracura followed with the 2015 release: a Swartland Syrah of real distinction

Chris Groenwald

The wines were superb, but for various reasons Ryan left, and he and Samantha split. He’s now working as a sommelier at Noble Rot in London, and Samantha is making her own wines under the Vine Venom label. This meant that Silwervis/Terracura went on a bit of a pause, but now it is back, under the leadership of Chris Groenwald.

There was still some wine in the cellar from Ryan, and new wine has been blended in with this: the beauty of a non-vintage model! So new editions of Smiley are now out. They are going to start making Terracura again with the 2023 vintage.

New releases:

Smiley Fresh White V2 NV Western Cape, South Africa
11.5% alcohol. 46% Chenin Blanc, 15% Colombard, 9% Clairette Blanc, 9% Semillon, 9% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Grenache Blanc, 60% Palomino. 52% is from 2023, 48% is from 2022. 10% skin fermented. Full yellow in colour, this has lovely depth and complexity. It’s rich but fresh with a citrus edge to the pear and apple fruit, showing nice intensity. Such drinkability and pleasure here with a wide dynamic range. Finishes with marmalade and dried herbs, with some lemony brightness. 93/100 (UK retail c. £19)

Smiley White V7 NV Western Cape, South Africa
12.5% alcohol. 70% Chenin Blanc, 10% Semillon, 7.5% Colombard, 5% Clairette Blanc, 3.5% Grenache Blanc, 4% Palomino. 57% 2023 vintage, 43% 2022. 40% skin ferment, 6% flor, 3% maderised. This is powerful and complex with a salty edge to the lively lemon, pear and apple fruit. There’s some peach skin, too, as well as subtle honied richness. Very bold but well balanced, with layers of flavour. Beautifully crafted and put together, showing depth and intensity, finishing spicy and saline. 94/100

Smiley Fresh Red V1 NV Western Cape, South Africa
43% Cinsault, 31% Syrah, 26% Carignan. 69% is 2023, 31% 2021. Fine and floral on the nose with lovely cherry and strawberry, as well as a hint of black olive. In the mouth this is silky and rounded with a lovely freshness to the fruit – all strawberries and cherries with a nice fruit sweetness. The balance is fabulous: an enjoyable wine but also one with some complexity. 94/100

Smiley Red V7 NV Western Cape, South Africa
12.5% alcohol. 58% Syrah, 23% Cinsault, 12% Touriga Nacional, 7% Tannat. 65% is 2023 and 35% is 2021. A slight lift on the nose which shows some notes of olive, dried herbs, cherries and balsamic vinegar. The palate is silky and fresh with lovely cherry and plum fruit as well as pepper and mint, as well as a touch of aniseed. This shows lovely vitality and weight, with some sappy hints on the finish. Massive drinkability here. 93/100

Silwervis Chenin Blanc 2023 Swartland, South Africa
67% Sky and 33% Kwerpfontein. Skin macerated for 5 days. This is a full golden colour, and has intense aromas of yellow plum, peach, apple pie and honeydew melon. In the mouth there’s some toast and spice, as well as rich flavours of honeyed pear and peach fruit with some mandarin richness. Real depth and intensity here with nice bold fruit, but it’s not at all over-heavy or clumsy. Lovely spicy finish. 94/100

Last year’s releases:

Smiley ‘Fresh’ White V1 NV Swartland, South Africa
12.5% alcohol. This has the current (2022) vintage as the backbone, blended with back vintages to 2016. 76% Chenin Blanc and 24% Grenache Blanc. Pear, apple and a bit of lemon and wax on the nose. There are some skin components here, and some oxidative components, but the overall impression is one of freshness (the idea is to have more fruit than some of the older Smileys). Lively, fresh citrussy palate with some brightness. Juicy and vital with a lovely stony edge. Very pure and layered. 93/100

Smiley White V6 NV Swartland, South Africa
12% alcohol. This has more of the oxidative components, and a bit of 2022 in the mix. Minty and floral, it has lovely citrus purity with keen acidity. Combines freshness and detail with real intensity. Brisk, saline and vivid with finesse. A really expressive wine. 94/100

smiley red

Smiley Red NV Swartland, South Africa
This is all from 2021. Floral, vivid and meaty. Textured and expressive with lovely raspberry and red cherry fruit with a stony, grainy texture and amazing fruit presence. This is lovely, and shows beautiful fruit. 94/100

Older notes from November 2019

Terracura Syrah 2014
This is the unreleased first vintage. Made from a farm that is the same as the Mullineux Iron vineyard. 420 bottles made. Fresh and peppery with a bloody, savoury edge to the focused black cherry fruit, with a hint of iron and spice, as well as olive and a touch of fynbos. Linear and juicy with nice presence. Very savoury and European. 94/100

Terracura Syrah 2015
6000 bottles. Lovely gravelly, spicy black cherry and blackberry fruit. This has a savoury edge to it with smoke, spice and minerals as well as some tar and herbs. Still fresh with nice tannins. Juicy and supple with a slight bloody edge. 93/100

Terracura Syrah 2016
3700 bottles. This is grainy and has some savoury notes, with olive and black cherry. Quite savoury with some herb and mint notes. There’s a bit of earth here with nice grippy tannins. There’s some richness here with drying tannins. Grippy and savoury, with a slight baked quality to the fruit, but there’s also some interest here. There are some interesting savoury notes. 92/100

Terracura Trinity Syrah 2017
450 bottles. This is a single vineyard. Yields were 900 kg/hectare. Amazing aromas of black cherries, pepper, spice and a touch of menthol. Concentrated, intense palate with firm tannins but also blackberry and black cherry fruit with a drying mouthfeel and sweetness to the fruit allied to pepper and herbs and blood and meat. Amazing intensity and freshness. Volume knob turned to 11. Hard to rate: it could be amazing but it’s also grippy and firm and could be a bit unyielding. 94/100

Terracura Syrah 2017
1400. Supple, fresh and expressive, with black cherries, plums and spice. Peppery and direct with lovely precision. This has expressive black fruits with firm structure but also some flesh and nice tar, herb, iodine and cured meat notes. Such precision and freshness. 95/100

Silwervis is always Chenin Blanc and Cinsault, inspired by the Swartland Revolution

Silwervis Cinsault 2014 Swartland
No added sulphites, no filtration, bottled straight from the egg. This is a leesy bottle. Cloudy. Supple red cherry and herb notes with nice freshness. Has a lovely brightness with juicy red cherries and some fine herbs. So 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 is the vineyard called The Sky. The second time they picked this. Such lovely texture and precision with nice brightness to the ripe pear and citrus fruit. Lovely precision and weight in the mouth with a grainy, chalky texture and some mint and fennel notes on the finish. Very stylish and sophisticated. 94/100

Smiley Chenin Blanc V5 NV Swartland
Tondonia was one of the big inspirations for this wine, along with white Jura. 22 different wines in this. Savoury and quite tangy with a lovely savoury edge. There’s some acid lift and some oxidative characters, as well as orange peel, spice and a savoury grip. Lots of things going on here. This is sterile filtered to stop any problems. 92/100