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MICHAEL GREENíS WINE NOTES (article first published : 2001-07-17)

The Plaisir de Merle estate at Simondium near Franschhoek is proof, if proof be needed, that there is always a demand for high quality wine even if the price is above average. This cellar, which is owned by the Distell company, has just released 4,000 cases of the 1998 Plaisir de Merle Merlot to meet the demands of the local and international market.

Merlot is a lovely red wine and a fairly recent arrival on the Cape wine scene. Its home base is Bordeaux and the grape yields a soft, gratifying red wine with typical flavours and scents of mint, chocolate, cherries, raspberries, caramel, coffee, prunes, a wide range of tastes. Plaisir de Merle is without question one of the stars in a field that now extends to almost 150 Cape producers of merlot. Its first vintage of merlot, 1995, won many awards and the 1998 which is now on the market is up to that high standard. The grapes for this newly-released wine were selected from three vineyards, one giving the sweeter minty flavours, the second providing floral or blackberry flavours and the third the more minerally and earthy flavours. The grapes from each vineyard were handled separately and fermented individually, and the wine spent 12 to 14 months in French oak barrels.

The cellarmaster, Niel Bester, says the 1998 vintage was unusually warm, but conditions remained favourable for the ripening of the grapes right up to harvesting. This enabled the winemaker to wait until he was satisfied that the grapes had reached full maturity before they were picked.

The result of all this is a brightly coloured red wine with hints of violets and mint in the bouquet, strong berry flavours and an imposing 14 percent alcohol content. A rich, luxurious kind of wine, lovely to drink now but with the potential to age well for several years. Retail price in Durban is about R70 a bottle.

* * * *

Other newly released wines come from Groote Post, near Darling, in the Swartland area. This is a new cellar - the maiden vintage was 1999 - which co-exists with a dairy farm. It is only 7km from the Atlantic Ocean and is in a part of the Western Cape which has a fast-growing reputation for good wines. The new items from Groote Post are the 2000 vintages of chardonnay, light gold in colour with a nutty, cinnamon aroma and flavours of fruit, stewed apple and peach; pinot noir, deep red colour, aroma of black cherries and plums, fruit flavours; and merlot, dark purple, spicy bouquet, raspberries and cherries on the palate.

I havenít been to Groote Post but it sounds an attractive place, worth a visit if you are in the Cape The cellar is open for wine tastings and sales Monday to Friday, 08h00 to 12h00 and 14h00 to 17h00 and on Saturdays from 09h00 to 12h00. Picnic baskets at R35 a head are available all the year round and must be ordered the day before at 082 412-9270 or (022) 492-2825. The farm is about 50 minutes from Cape Town, off the West Coast road R27. Ė Michael Green




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