Tag Archives: merlot

Private Vintners Beyers Truter Bordeaux Blend Cabernet Merlot 2000

The Headlines: //

The nose is gargantuan. Like the nasal love child of Andre-the-Giant & Bette Midler. Pungent dried violets, raisins, oak, & cellar must.
On the palate, marginally overbearing port notes, though the acidity has lasted surprisingly well. As for tannins…well, what tannins, right? Soft as silk.
While the wine itself may be a touch past its best, Beyers Truter, when he is “a touch past his best” is still twice the winemaker of many a mortal. And his wines follow suit. If you have some cellared, drink them now.

Quality: 15/20 (purely due to over-aging)//
Price: Unknown //
Value: N/A //
Ponce factor: High//
Occasion: Dinner with your Grandpaps//
Key words: aging, tannins, acidity, Beyers Truter//
Vivino rating //

To fill those awkward silences…

T.A.R.A – the four secret ingredients to wines that age well

Because there is nothing like an ironic acronym to help one remember important details, I’ve developed what I like to call the TARA technique to assessing a wine’s aging potential. It involves the study of the following four elements:
Residual Sugar.

(If the irony of TARA being used as an acronym to unlock the secrets of graceful aging is lost on you, download the season of Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars).

In the matter of Science vs. Booze…

But why do we need an acronym? Can’t we just check the wine’s “Best Before” date? Alas, no. Because, despite the fact that wine has been drunk for thousands of years by hundreds of very clever, curious, well-funded and highly-motivated individuals, no one has discovered a sure-fire way to predict exactly how long a wine will take to reach its peak. Or reduce itself to vinegar.

“If wine was a poor inner-city neighbourhood, oxygen molecules would be juvenile delinquents looking to break stuff…”

Perhaps part of the reason is because, while it might be possible to punch variables into a complex algebraic equation and decipher a best-before date, it’s more enjoyable to punch a hole in a cork and decipher the location of your nearest glass. So no one really bothers.

Which brings us back to T.A.R.A.

By examining the prevalence of tannins, acidity, residual sugar, and alcohol in a wine, we can at least make snappy-but-educated guesses as to how long a wine may continue to improve…or at least survive. (This info is almost always available under “technical specs” on the winemaker or estate website).

If wine was a poor inner-city neighbourhood, oxygen molecules would be juvenile delinquents looking to break stuff, and tannins would be those selfless social workers, who keep them out of mischief by teaching them to knit, or play badminton.

Tannins form part of a group of compounds called polyphenols that bond to a whole bunch of other chemicals in weird and wonderful ways. One of the chemicals they like to bond to is oxygen. These delinquent oxygen molecules would otherwise set about wreaking havoc with certain elements in the wine, but INSTEAD, the oxygen hangs out with these phenolic compounds and can, given the right opportunities and a good education, actually become healthy citizens, who contribute to society.

While tannins may busy themselves with both each other, and youthful, anarchic oxygen molecules, acidity’s trump card is its ability to make life awfully unpleasant for any bacteria that may cause wine to spoil prematurely.

If tannins are social workers, Acidity is Simon Cowell on X-Factor destroying the self-esteem of young hopeful bacteria everywhere. It does this by shifting the pH of the solution down the scale to a point where bacteria cannot survive.
“In general, a wine should have a pH of somewhere between 3 and 4 to be stable and not allow bacteria to grow and thrive,” Max Meindl, all-round organic chemistry biscuit, and superbly knowledgeable founder of Max on Wine.

If bacteria are high schoolers on prom night, sugar is the semi-palsied history teacher monitoring the distance between adolescent bodies on the dance floor. “Always leave room for the Holy Ghost”, says Professor Sugar, totally cutting the grass of every bacterium looking to get a legover before Jocund Day can stand tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
There are various mechanisms by which sugar creates highly unromantic settings for would-be bonking bacteria (they don’t actually bonk), but the only mechanism I’d suggest further reading on at present is that of water activity.
If you want to learn more about how sugar reduces water activity, and therefore stops bacteria from having a right old time, this is as good a link as any to start you off. And here is piece from admirably conscientious Royal Coffee on role of WA in green coffee beans. In case you were looking to branch out.

While the aim of this piece has been to avoid getting technical, I just think it’s cool the way that alcohol deals with bacteria. Alcohol acts like the blob from the 80s horror film “The Blob”. It dissolves lipids in a bacteria’s outer membranes, and then, when the poor little critter starts to bleed out like a doomed high school cheerleader in the back of jalopy, the alcohol rushes into the cell and starts denaturing proteins. Meditate on that one when you’re next hungover, and you’ll realise, “heck, I got off pretty darn lightly with nausea and a headache!”




Groote Post Merlot 2014

TLDR: Easier to drink than it is to like//
Quality: 12/20
Price: R115 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value: 2/5 //
Ponce factor: Moderate //
Occasion: Date night, or Sunday Roast lunch//
Key words:  Old Mutual Trophy, varietal characteristics//

Vivino rating //

Tasting notes:

I find it intriguing that Paul Giamatti is so much like a merlot. Short, rounded, a little soft…
It makes the Sideways experience one big episode of epicurean irony.
As for this Old Medal Trophy winner…
Colour may be a delightful dense and vibrant red, but after the promising visual cue, the rather closed nose was a disappointment. The palate was pleasantly clean, and suitably dry, with some prominent cherry fruit acidity, as well as a touch of eucalyptus. But the whole affair was over rather quickly, and didn’t try too hard to lure you back for a sequel.

As far as structure is concerned, tannins are characteristically soft, and mouthfeel is med(+), which I suppose is something of a saving grace.

To fill those awkward silences

Know your oats. Or grapes.
The Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties are often blended together; have similar primary fruit flavours; are both are grown in pretty much every wine region in South Africa; both produce red wine; both are ubiquitous in South African bottle stores and grocery store wine aisles; and each one is often described in reference to the other (Merlot has been called “Cabernet without the pain”). But despite all this, it should be noted that the two red wines are still quite different in style. Here are just a few broad brushstrokes differences that may help you decide side of the fence your bread is buttered…so to speak:
Tannins – CS (especially the young ones) are often characterized by heavy mouth-sapping tannins, whereas merlot is most often far softer, and less imposing.
Body – Merlot grapes generally ripen earlier than CS, they are larger, have thinner skin, and they generally have a higher yield per hectare. This makes them no only a safer bet come harvest time, but the resulting wine is often just a little less intense, less concentrated…not as brawny as the later-ripening CS counterpart from the same vineyard.
Ageability – Merlots can seldom age past 10 years, and the warmer climate South African examples (like this one from the Western Cape’s Darling region) would being beating the odds by being drinkable at the 7 or 8 year-mark. CS in contrast regularly last up to 20 years or longer (again, with cooler climate wines showing a little more longevity).
Margin for error: The combination of CS’s generally higher tannin levels, heavier mouthfeel, and occasional lack of ripeness means that a poor choice on a Cab Sauv can be far more consequential than a dodgy pick from the merlot bin. If your date is not a wine fanatic, merlot will almost always be the softer, fruitier, safer bet.

Then again, “safe” is for bookkeepers and insurance salesman. You’re a Wild stallion. A frontiersman of the first order.

Sure, some cabs have ruined a few dream dates, and offended some important clients… but then no one ever pinned a medal of honor on a merlot-swilling diplomat, did they?

Decoding the Old Mutual Wine Awards:

All wines are tasted blind (IE judges have no idea what they are tasting) which gives rise to some glorious controversy. This year the most decorated wine at the competition was a R35.00 Secret Cellars No.235 Chenin Blanc from Ultra Liquors, which won awards for:
1. Best Cape Chenin Blanc
2. Highest scoring wine, as judged by the International judges panel
3. Best Discovery of the Show

So…if you are still reading, as opposed to being on your way to Ultra Liquors…

Here is a little statistical breakdown on the OMTWS medal system.

Trophy awards are only given to the best wines in their genre. Basically the highest scoring gold medal winner in its class. The Groote Post Darling Hills Merlot 204 featured here is one such trophy wine, being the top Merlot from the
Gold medals represent less than 4% of the playing field, which (statistically speaking) makes it quite an achievement. The wine must score more than 90 out of 100.
Silver medals scores 80-89 out of 100. This year there were 113 silver medal wines. Which puts a silver medalist in the top 15% of the field.
Bronze Medals: The 2016 awards featured 1067 wines were entered, of which over 500 of them received Old Mutual Bronze medals. So it is worth noting that a bronze medal means little more than it only just within the top half of entered wines.
It is little more than a “niece to know” and definitely shouldn’t convince you that you need to part with a few extra shekels just for the sticker.

Rust en Vrede Estate Blend 2008

TLDR: Who cares what it costs? This is discernment, dominance, desire, and alliteration. In a bottle. //
Quality: 19/20
Price: Current vintage (2013) R385 – R450 (as of September 2016) //
Value: kinda irrelevant (but compared to other wines in this price bracket…this is stellar value) //
Ponce factor: Stratospheric //
Occasion: Dinner with the firm’s partners //
Key words:  Concours Mondial Bruxelles, Wine Spectator Top 100//
Vivino rating //

Tasting notes:

Blend: roughly 60% Cab Sauv, 30% Shiraz, 10% Merlot
This is like Lincoln, Mandela & Thatcher pressed and distilled into a bottle of pure authority. An enormous wine that is simultaneously imposing and seductive.
Vanguard aromas carry black olives, oak, plums, cassis, and dried violets, leading onto a heavy rounded palate of ripe plums and cassis set against glorious black cherry acidity.
Pepper emerges on the tail, accompanied by gloriously well-integrated tannins and a marachino cherry tail that lingers for days.
If the sheer joy of drinking it is not enough, it has more than its fair share of bragging rights:
1. 93 points from Wine Spectator
2. Position 78 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 for 2012
3. Concour Mondial Bruxelles Gold Medal

To fill those awkward silences…

There are times where the joy of a wine is purely sensory, and then there are those times, where half the joy it to be attained outside the bottle. This wine is the latter.
Not only does it comes from an estate with over 300 years of winemaking history behind it, but Rust en Vrede has been established over the years as one of the most lauded South African estates on the International stage. Not only has their Estate blend garnered silverware from Concours Mondial Bruxelles, and given Rust-en-Vrede their fifth appearance in the esteemed Wine Spectator‘s Top 100 list, but R&V’s Single Vineyard Cab Sauvs & Single Vineyard Syrahs are no strangers to the upper Echelons of the Wine Spectator scoring system, or Platters 5-star status either.
In short, Rust en Vrede did not simply produce a superb wine in their Estate Blend 2008, but have proven time and time again, that they are a truly world class vineyard. They were Nelson Mandela’s choice of wine at his Nobel Peace Prize-giving dinner; they produced the first South African wine to be listed in the Top 100 wines of the world; and the proceeded to repeat that feat for the next four consecutive vintages. I don’t often gush like a Taylor Swift fan on Grammy night, but when I do, it’s usually because of an overwhelming sense of national pride, not unlike this wave, brought on by the genius of a team like the one lead by Jean Engelbrecht and Coenie Snyman.

Don’t even say the word “Rubicon”.

But let’s just pause for a second. Because whenever making claims of this grandeur about a South African wine, there will always be a reprobate, usually just having returned from the can, where he most certainly did not wash his hands, who will say, “Yeah, but nothing can touch the rubicon.”
Now, there are no doubt a number of contenders who could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with this beauty – Groot Constantia’s Gouverneurs Reserve; Costantia Glen’s Five; Warwick’s Trilogy, Rustenburg’s Peter Barlow… But Meerlust’s Rubicon is not one of them.
Admittedly I feel like the lady doth protest too much on this matter (“the lady” being me in this case), but I only do so, because it is almost a certainty that any one of your dinner companions, who realises that he has been properly wet-willied by your magnificently tasteful wine choice will (no doubt) try to invoke the power of this status totem by saying something vulgar like, “Oh, now I wish I’d brought the Rubicon that I left in my gym bag.”
When this happens, don’t get violent, as would be fitting, but rather just suggest that it’s best that he let it rest for a few more years. It is a commonly known fact that Rubicons are universally and perpetually “going to be magnificent in a a decade or so.” They’re life retirement annuities for vampires. Far more valuable when unrealised.

Don’t take my word for it

In contrast to a lot of wine in the R300+ bracket, this wine performs remarkably well in blind tastings, and is superb value despite it being priced where it is. But rather than have to endure any more of me frothing uncontrollably about it, why not slip a bottle into your next red blend blind tasting and see for yourself. To really test value, you’ll want to have wines from a range of price points…and just for good measure, include a Rubicon from the same vintage and decide the matter for yourself 😉