Meerlust Wine Estate: the pleasure of drinking

Meerlust

Source: Meerlust Wine Estate

Wine Tasted

  1. Meerlust Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, Rubicon, 2008

Year One of the WSET Diploma is done and dusted and in keeping with the metaphor I have dusted off my keyboard and returned to something that gives me great pleasure in addition to drinking wine – writing, or rather, rambling about it!

At a tasting of South African wines with my tasting group I came across a wine I wanted to know more about – the Rubicon 2008 from Meerlust Wine Estate.

Found in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, Meerlust is named after its location meaning ‘pleasure of the sea’ and in reference to False Bay, only 5 kilometres from the manor house and vineyard.

South Africa Wine Regions

Source: Wines of South Africa

A family owned and operated business with origins back to the early days of winemaking in South Africa, the Myburgh family who continue to own this vineyard first took ownership of the estate in 1756 when they purchased it from the original owner Henning Huising. I love the sense of history associated with this winery; Huising established Meerlust Estate in 1693, less than 50 years after the first vines were planted at the Cape of Good Hope in order to provide a refreshment station for those Dutch East India Company employees taking a break in their journey to lands further afield. The cellar at the estate was built in 1776 and although thoroughly modernised for today’s winemaking, all the changes to the cellar have been with the goal of preserving the historic building for generations to come.

Cooled by sea breezes and mists rolling in from the coast, vines are able to enjoy a longer growing season and management of South Africa’s heat. The location is so suited to growing quality vines that in 2003 Meerlust Estate successfully registered as a ‘unit for the production of estate wine’. [1] The term is used on a label to indicate the grapes used to produce the wine have been grown on the estate and the wine has been made and bottled on the estate – it is also seen as a sign of quality.

Meerlust Estate produce a number of different wines but it was a trip to Bordeaux that inspired Nico Myburgh and winemaker Giorgio Dalla Cia to experiment with blending different red wine grapes and eventually launch Rubicon in 1980. The blend was then Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Merlot (20%) and Cabernet Franc (10%).

Today the blend remains the same but may also include a dash of Petit Verdot for the colour and spicy aromatics this grape offers and in fact the Rubicon 2008 includes 1% of those thick-skinned deeply coloured Petit Verdot berries. The summer of that year was a cool one allowing the grapes to remain on the vine for longer which, when combined with the location of the winery, translates to a longer, slower ripening period.

Each grape variety for the Rubicon wine is hand harvested and fermented separately with fermentation taking place in stainless steel tanks before each of the wines are aged for a period of time in 300L French oak barrels. After the malolactic fermentation has completed the development of each wine is assessed and it is only then that the blend is created. [2] After blending the wine is transferred to oak barrels for a further 18 months of ageing and homogenisation of all the blending components. The oak barrels are a mixture of 70% new French oak and 30% second fill barrels.

Following maturation in oak the wine is bottled and left to continue ageing in bottle for another two years before release meaning the wine is always four years of ages when available to the market. This wine is made to continue ageing for many years after release and, according to the website the first release from 1980 continues to drink well after 30 + years in the bottle.

Meerlust Wine Estate Rubicon 2008

For our tasting however the wine was a young pup of a mere six years of age. The concentration and complexity of aromas and flavours of were elegantly framed by texture, acidity and oak. Layers of black fruit, tea leaf, subtle sweet spice and those wonderful first signs of age with tobacco and cigar box were revealed. This wine enjoys a well-deserved international reputation and recognition when one talks of wines from South Africa – no mean feat in the highly competitive world of wine!

Looking at the distribution network on their website it should not be too difficult to get your hands on a bottle and if you have not done so – what are you waiting for? This is a wine to be shared with some good friends over a great meal and I would not be surprised if you found it difficult to stop at one glass!

Happy Drinking!

Related Happy Wine Woman Posts

A Couple of Little Stars from South Africa

The Changing Face of Wines from South Africa

Reading

Meerlust Wine Estate

Wines of South Africa

Robinson, J., ed. (2006). The Oxford Companion to Wine. Great Britain: Oxford University Press

Where you can buy these wines

Meerlust Distributors

Wine’n’Things Hong Kong

1. Wines of South Africa: South African Wine Styles

2. Malolactic fermentation: Conversion of stronger malic acid naturally present in new wine into lactic acid (which has lower acidity) and carbon dioxide. Page 422. Robinson, J., ed. (2006). The Oxford Companion to Wine. Great Britain: Oxford University Press.

Greco di Tufo; still or sparkling? Or … what exactly is that?

Wines Tasted

  1. Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania, Italy Greco di Tufo sparkling, NV
  2. Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania, Italy, Greco di Tufo, 2012

The weather in Hong Kong has been pretty gloomy of late so to cheer myself up I’ve been thinking of all those chilled wines I intend to enjoy as I attempt to manage the inevitable heat and humidity that is coming…

Recently I’ve tasted a couple of wines from the producer Feudi di San Gregorio in Campania, southern Italy. Riccardo Cotarella, winemaker at Feudi di San Gregorio and Anselme Selosse of the renown Selosse Champagne teamed up to produce a range of sparkling wines made using the traditional method employed for making champagne but in this case using Italian grapes. My first taste was a rosé made from Aglianico grapes and to be honest the DUBL Aglianico left me pretty ambivalent – very dry, an overabundance of cherry flavours and rather prickly bubbles which left me rather dubious about the second bottle I had in the fridge, the DUBL Greco … how wrong I was!

Italy-Wine-Map-wine-folly

Source: Wine Folly

The DUBL Greco is a completely different wine. An intoxicating nose of heady white flowers alongside aromas of apples and peach as well as rich notes of butter. These aromas continued through to the palate and were joined by a good dose of mineral flavours on the finish. With M. Selosse involved in the production of this wine it is perhaps no surprise to find some oxidative aromas and flavours for which his own champagne is known, so if that isn’t to your liking you may not enjoy this sparkling as much as I did. I drank the DUBL Greco as an aperitif served with roasted almonds tossed in paprika and salt. The combination worked – the salt nicely balanced the high acidity of the wine leaving notes of baked apples or tarte tatin to settle on the palate. Those prickly bubbles appear again in this wine and although not my preference it didn’t stop me refilling my glass!

F d SG Dubl Aglianico F d SG DUBL Greco

As it turned out I found, tucked away in our wine fridge, a still wine made from that same grape, Greco, and made by the same producer – an opportunity to compare the two styles that was too good to pass up. The still Greco di Tufo has lovely aromas of melon, the subtlest hint of grilled pineapple, peach, lemon and white flowers reminding me of almond blossoms and jasmine. As with the sparkling version the flavours flowed through to the palate and again finished with a distinctive mineral sensation, one that made me think of the smell of hot stones that have just been rained on. The wine has a good balance of tropical and citrus notes that lead to a good mineral finish making it another winner for me.

F d SG Greco di Tufo

Greco is an ancient grape produced in the south of Italy from at least 2,500 years ago, after being brought to Italy from Greece. [1] While the word Greco refers to the grape variety, Tufo refers to the village around which much Greco di Tufo is grown. The name of the village is in reference to the name of the tufaceous soil of the region, which is a type of yellowish calcareous and clay soil. Typically Greco is used to produce a still dry wine although both sparkling, as we have already seen, and sweet wines called Greco di Bianco are also made.

So with a few bottles from Feudi di San Gregorio in the fridge, maybe the heat and humidity will be just that little bit more bearable …

Happy Drinking!

Related Happy Wine Woman posts – Italy

Emilia-Romagna – Lambrusco

Piemonte – Vietti

Tuscany – Il Molino di Grace

Sicily

Reading

Feudi di San Gregorio

Learn Italian Wines

Where can you get these wines?

Feudi di San Gregorio distribution

Sarment Wines

Wine Searcher

1.Clarke, Oz & Rand, Margaret. Grapes & Wines. New York: Sterling Epicure, 2012. Page 112.

Gin Glorious Gin!

 

Four Pillars

Gins Tasted

  1. Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, Yarra Valley, Australia
  2. G’Vine Floraison, Cognac, France
  3. G’Vine Nouaison, Cognac, France

A recent review of our cellar revealed that the winery Giant Steps (GS) has a lot to answer for when it comes to my drinking choices. Giant Steps and Innocent Bystander both hold a long standing spot in our cellar but that has now expanded to include wines made independently by former and current GS winemakers, such as Salo Wines (winemakers Steve Flamsteed and Dave Mackintosh, current and former winemakers for GS), Ar Fion (Dave Mackintosh), Dirty Three Wines (Cameron Mackenzie former winemaker with GS) and now, if that wasn’t enough, Four Pillars Gin, headed up by Cameron Mackenzie, seems to have snuck its way into our house. Mr. Sexton, we really need to talk if my liver is to survive!!

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48 hours in Épernay: Day 2 Champagne Gosset

Champagne Gosset logo

Champagnes Tasted

  1. Gosset, Grand Blanc de Blancs, NV
  2. Gosset, Grand Rosé
  3. Gosset, Grand Reserve
  4. Gosset, Celebris 2002, Extra Brut

The final appointment for the 48 hours I spent in Épernay was to Champagne Gosset in rue Godart Roger with the absolutely lovely Nathalie Dufour, Export Sales Administrator. Despite Nathalie’s best efforts and although the sun was shining I couldn’t bring myself to part with my jacket as we set off for a tour around the facilities – it was a true winter’s day!

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48 hours in Épernay: Day 2 Salon and Delamotte

SalonDelamotte copy

Champagnes Tasted

  1. Delamotte, Brut
  2. Delamotte, Blanc de Blancs,NV
  3. Delamotte, Blanc de Blancs, 2002
  4. Delamotte, Rosé 
  5. Salon, Blanc de Blancs, 1999
  6. Salon, Blanc de Blancs, 1997
  7. Salon, Blanc de Blancs, 1996

Following my visit to Besserat de Bellefon I had dinner at Les Avises where by sheer good fortune I happened to arrive a little earlier than most of the guests so the other party at the restaurant very kindly offered to share their first bottle with me… the party being led by M. Didier Despond, of Salon and Delamotte and the first bottle being none other than a 1997 Salon. How lucky I felt at that moment especially as I had tasted the 1996 earlier in the year and was very excited to be able to compare the two.

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48 hours in Épernay: Day 1 Besserat de Bellefon

Bessert de Bellefon logo

Champagnes Tasted

  1. Besserat de Bellefon, Blanc de Blancs NV
  2. Besserat de Bellefon, Brut Rosé NV
  3. Besserat de Bellefon, Brut NV
  4. Besserat de Bellefon, Extra Brut
  5. Besserat de Bellefon, Brut 2002

Besserat de Bellefon was founded in Aÿ in 1843 by Edmond Besserat and two generations later a grandson of the same name married Yvonne de Méric de Bellefon, thus creating the family crest under which the champagne is known today. In 1971 the company was bought by Pernod-Ricard who, in the 1990s, sold it to what is now known as Lanson BCC and this is where I find myself for the third appointment of my first day in Épernay.

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48 hours in Épernay: Day 1 Champagne Lenoble

Champagne Lenoble logo copy

Champagnes Tasted

  1. Champagne AR Lenoble, Cuvee Intense NV
  2. Champagne AR Lenoble, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Chouilly, NV
  3. Champagne AR Lenoble, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Chouilly, 2006

I first encountered Champagne AR Lenoble at the Altaya Wines Annual Tasting last year. So when I realised I was going to be in Épernay I immediately contacted Antoine Malassagne, one of the two owners and great grandson of the founder, Armand-Raphaël Graser, who kindly agreed to have me visit.

Pulling into the small offices in Damery it was immediately clear this is a smaller, family run business. As I waited for my appointment, I chatted with a sommelier from Paris who had driven down and packed his Mini to the brim with stock for his restaurant – it would appear I am not the only one who finds these bubbles delicious!

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