Prior to visiting South Africa I had already tasted Meerlust Rubicon, and this wine helped set the yardstick to judge against. The visit to Meerlust came towards the end of the trip so I felt a certain trepidation for how the wines of the estate matched both expectation and memory.
Wine has been grown on this estate to the south of Stellenbosch since 1756. The estate has been recognised as a national monument since 1987, although we did not stop long enough to see more than the tasting room. Meerlust has been long recognized as one of South Africa’s top estates. The range at Meerlust is simple: 4 varietals (1 white and 3 red) and the flagship Rubicon (a Bordeaux blend). Here in the UK I have also seen an entry level Meerlust red although this was not available for tasting.
We travelled to Meerlust Estate from False Bay having followed the stunning R44 along the coast around the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. False Bay is still visible from the turning into the estate and this proximity to the sea is key to the wines. A sea breeze and mist keep the vineyard temperatures in check through the summer permitting a longer ripening season. This translates into a great intensity and permits elegance in the wines.
The tasting room and shop are in one of the estates historic buildings and are accompanied by an exhibition of photography and articles about the cape and the estate.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 09h00 – 17h00, Saturdays 10h00 – 14h00.
Tasting fee: R30 per person refundable on purchase of wine.
Stockists in UK: The wines of Meerlust are relatively easily found in the UK. The price disparity across the range is less here than in South Africa and so Rubicon is relatively more keenly priced. I have included a link for each wine as some are slightly tricky to find.
Wines Tasted: Meerlust Chardonnay 2014, Meerlust Pinot Noir 2015, Meerlest Merlot 2013, Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Meerlust Rubicon 2012
Meerlust Chardonnay 2014
100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 13.5%.
11 months in 50:50 new and 2nd fill French Oak.
Price: R210 (£18.29 from sawinesonline)
Note: Oak prominent on the nose with underlying richness and intensity. The palate is rich, with lemon dominating the fruit and a buttery consistency. There is almost a nutty quality to this. The wine is very well balanced and acidity keeps it together.
Conclusions: Rich yet refreshing Chardonnay in an oaked style. Given there is plenty of fruit and acidity I would personally cellar this for a little while before revisiting.
Meerlust Pinot Noir 2015
100% Pinot Noir. Alcohol 13.3%.
11 months in 50:50 new and 2nd fill French Oak.
Price: R245 (£19.49 from sawinesonline)
Note: Ruby/Purple in colour. Aromas very classic and evocative of Pinot Noir.
The fruit on nose and palate lies somewhere between black and sour cherry. The wine is still rather primary but I suspect complexity will increase as evidenced by the savoury notes creeping in. Reasonable level of tannin, long length to the finish and balanced acidity round out a solid Pinot Noir.
Conclusions: I was sceptical that the climate in Stellenbosch was cool enough for Pinot. Then again the sea is not so far away from Meerlust and this is actually very tasty. I don’t think its quite as hard hitting as the other reds but it is well balanced and well made Pinot Noir at a great price.
Meerlest Merlot 2013
85% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 13.5%.
19 months in 65:35 new and 2nd fill French Oak.
Price: R260 (£18.29 from sawinesonline)
Note: Intense colouration: purple/ruby. Red fruit on the nose. Rich red cherry on the palate leading to green pepper/capsicum- almost brambley in nature (I hadn’t realised this had Cabernet Franc in the blend but presumably it contributed these greener notes). Good structure from the oak. Spice lending complexity. Minerality comes through in the finish.
Conclusions: Hot weather can make Merlot jammy but that is certainly not the case here. A pretty solid effort and well worth seeking out. A lot richer than it’s French cousins in Saint Emilion but it really works well.
Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alcohol 13.5%.
21 months in 72:25 new and 2nd fill French Oak.
Price: R280 (£19.49 from sawinesonline)
Note: Darker fruit than the Merlot. Fresh crunchy flavours- delicious. Great acidity carries this and gives focus. The sea influence is notable, the flavours more like those from a marginal climate than the Western Cape. Perhaps there could be more complexity in this but right now it screams elegant claret – couldn’t help picking up a bottle of this one.
Conclusions: This wine is from the same vintage as the Rubicon below. As alluded to in Meerlust’s own tasting notes this wine has not quite got the ageing potential of its big brother but right now I feel this gives it a run for its money. From discussing with staff at Meerlust it sounded as though there is a lot less demand for the Cabernet in the United Kingdom – don’t ask me why, I can only assume the wine buyers have gone mad.
Meerlust Rubicon 2012
63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot.
Alcohol: 14.4%. 20 Months in 65:35 new and 2nd fill French Oak.
Price: R350 (2010 vintage: £21 from The Wine Society)
Note: The flagship Rubicon expressed blacker fruits than the other wines from the stable. It remains dry but with slightly more sweetness and higher alcohol but retains exceptional balance. The palate showed primary blackcurrant, with well integrated oak lending spice and structure to the final blend. The tannin was moderate and smooth with sufficient acidity for long ageing. The finish was very long giving a suggestion of the complexity this will develop in time.
Conclusions: The Rubicon manages to increase the intensity, without sacrificing balance. For me this is very early in its evolution and whilst so drinkable now it will only get better. This was a wine that really rose to the occasion and deserves its position in the upper echelon of South African wines.
Overall: Meerlust is a must stop if you happen to be in the Western Cape. It is relatively easy to get hold of the wines in the UK, and they represent very good value for wine of this quality. As much as I think the flagship has more potential for drinking now I would probably take the Cabernet Sauvignon – the Rubicon probably needs a bit longer to get into its stride.