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BLENDS THEN AND NOW – published on: Monday, 23 April 2018


South Africa has a long history of blended wines; the tale of their development interweaves old and new varieties. 

Chenin Blanc then, as often now, was a mainstay in white blends; partnered by Colombar, Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon, these were fresh, easy-drinking wines. Fairview’s Charles Back was the first to craft a serious, oak-matured Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend with his 1983 Charles Gerard. Unfortunately, he proved to be ahead of his time. It took until 2001, when André van Rensburg at Vergelegen firmly established this pairing, one which has grown in stature and proven ageability. Today, others similarly esteemed include Cape Point Vineyard Isliedh, Tokara Director’s Reserve, Chamonix Reserve and Steenberg Magna Carta

 

The introduction of Rhône varieties Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, increased plantings of Grenache Blanc together with Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and others have contributed to a style of blend unique to the Cape. Increased flavour and textural complexity are derived from any of the following: skin contact, spontaneous fermentation in concrete eggs, clay amphorae, oak foudres; there are no restrictions on winemakers’ imagination!  Adi Badenhorst’s AA Badenhorst White, Olifantsberg Blanc, Chris & Suzaan Alheit’s Cartology and Eben Sadie’s Ouwingerds T’Voetpad (a field blend from old vines) are just a handful of these Cape originals.

 

Amazingly, some early red blends styled for accessibility, have stood the test of time; Chateau Libertas, first made in 1932, is among the best known. For many years, it was Cabernet-based, usually with Cinsaut, and wood-matured. Rustenberg Dry Red, a two-thirds Cabernet, one-third Cinsaut mix, co-fermented and aged in large, old oak was another favourite. At the end of the 1970s, red Bordeaux-style blends, featuring Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, assumed the mantle of flagship for a growing number of winemakers. The first, Welgemeend Estate 1979, was shortly followed by Meerlust Rubicon, Kanonkop Paul Sauer and Overgaauw Tria Corda; these remain among the Cape’s most highly regarded today.

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History

Growing fine wines on the Meerlust Estate has been part of the Myburgh family tradition for eight generations, beginning in 1756. Long recognized for producing world-class wines, the Meerlust Estate is singularly rich in charm and history. Growing fine wines on the Meerlust Estate has been part of the Myburgh family tradition for eight generations, beginning in 1756. Long recognized for producing world-class wines, the Meerlust Estate is singularly rich in charm and history. A tour of the estate, situated fifteen kilometers south of Stellenbosch, reveals its graceful manor house, classical wine cellar, rose gardens, family cemetery, dovecote and bird sanctuary.

 


The first owner of the property, a German immigrant named Henning Huising, recognized the beauty and potential of the farm and settled here in 1693. He named his new-found home "Meerlust", meaning "pleasure of the sea", as the manor house sits on a granite outcrop only 5 km from False Bay, and in the warm summer months the vineyards are refreshed by ocean breezes and evening mists which roll in from the coast. Visitors to the Estate - a National Monument - have for centuries anticipated seeing the cool, white façade of the Manor House as they passed through the gates and along the palm and oak tree-lined drive.  Not much has changed.  Today, that sense of having arrived at a most treasured home and estate is enhanced by the knowledge - on seeing the sweep of vineyards that flank the drive - that here grow the grapes of the prized Meerlust wines. Contemporary Meerlust is an exciting fusion of the refreshingly modern and the tirelessly classical.

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Vineyards

The estate is blessed with very particular and suitable soils. The sub-soils are predominantly clay, from an ancient alluvial deposit, while the topsoil and intermingling layers are of progressively weathered granite gravel, originating from majestic granite mountains thrust up by volcanic activity some 160 million years ago. The estate is blessed with very particular and suitable soils. The sub-soils are predominantly clay, from an ancient alluvial deposit, while the topsoil and intermingling layers are of progressively weathered granite gravel, originating from majestic granite mountains thrust up by volcanic activity some 160 million years ago. Its proximity to the sea allows its vineyards to benefit from the cooling effect of the prevailing south-east wind during the hot Cape summers, permitting a slow ripening of the grapes for a rich varietal aroma.  The area experiences extremely heavy dew deposits and its annual winter rainfall measures approximately 550mm.  Further moisture is derived from the mists that occur in this coastal belt during the ripening period.  Temperatures are moderate around the year.

 

When the average rainfall is not sufficient in a particular vintage year, supplementary irrigation by drippers becomes necessary.  This helps the vines to develop a better and deeper root structure, and, in return, equips the vine against drought and allows the vines to absorb soil supplement more effectively. For the connoisseur, this contributes to a stronger individual character to the wine.  All vines are trellised and are pruned to limit the tonnage per hectare. The secret of the suitability of the Meerlust soil lies in the varying composition of clay and granite. Where the soils are richest in clay, Merlot has been meticulously set down, so that the roots can penetrate deep into the soils, seeking the moisture held there by the sponge-like clay from the winter rainfall and made available to the vine throughout the ripening season. These soils are also spiked with black laterite deposits known locally as "koffie klip", which further add to the distinction and quality of our wines.

 

The hardy Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are planted on well-drained, warmer, predominantly granite gravel soils, where they are forced to work hard for their living, producing densely flavoured, characterful grapes. A small but carefully situated vineyard of Petit Verdot is planted on north-facing slopes. Chardonnay vineyards are planted in well drained alluvial soils along the banks of the "Eerste" River while the Pinot Noir is planted on the most elevated, coolest part of Meerlust to create the pure expression of this variety. These vines are hand-nurtured by the people who live and work on the estate.

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Winemaking

Meerlust's stately, Cape Dutch cellar - built in 1776, and originally the Estate's wagon house - reveals a wealth of architectural detail. Meerlust's stately, Cape Dutch cellar - built in 1776, and originally the Estate's wagon house - reveals a wealth of architectural detail.  Beautifully restored by well-known Cape Town architect Revel Fox in 1974, with the installation of new pressing and cellar equipment, the cellar's design is a mellifluous balance between the traditional historic and the functionally modern. 

 

Importantly, this carefully planned renovation was successfully combined with the effective provision of the best available cellar installation for the production of superlative quality red wine. During 2008, under the guidance of eighth generation owner, Hannes Myburgh, further modernization of the cellar took place to ensure the meticulous handling of grapes and in particular the vinification of smaller parcels of grapes. Sensitive redevelopment has enabled a functioning modern winery to exist within a historical national treasure. Both time-honoured and modern techniques are applied to achieve the potential of the vineyards and soils, ensuring that each bottle bears the hallmark of Meerlust Estate wine. The wines are all made exclusively from grapes grown on the Estate

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Highlights

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Higgo Jacobs, Sommelier (South Africa)  tasted  19 wines  from  Meerlust Estate . In a tasting of  19 wines 

Meerlust Rubicon 2017 / Pure Cabernet expression, with leafy spice interest from Cab F and Merlot. Super balance and purity here, with volume that unfolds with time in the glass. Very promising for future Rubicon. 95/100

1m 12d ago

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