The Meerlust Estate Prepares For Another Momentous New Release – Tasting the Meerlust Rubicon 2017 Red Blend…

The 2017 release of the Meerlust Rubicon represents another classical expression of this fabulous Cape Icon wine. The high critical praise heaped upon the 2015 vintage helped it to become the fastest selling Rubicon release on record. Indeed, one cannot even begin to imagine a South African fine wine landscape that does not feature this wine prominently. Great expectations are placed on every new release and year after year, this Cape heritage estate delivers.

The 2017 vintage was surprising in that from the very beginning, the estate felt that the wines were very similar to the excellent 2015 reds. A cold winter in 2016 followed by a warm spring ensured early and even bud break. Although comparatively dry, as the Cape was still experiencing a drought, the 2017 crop was greatly enhanced by the estate’s ability to irrigate strategically, ensuring steady ripening and eventual phenolic ripeness across all varieties.

Tasting at Meerlust in March 2018 with Hannes Myburgh, Chris Williams and viticulturalist Roelie Joubert who sadly passed away in April 2020 from a sudden heart attack.

The 2017 is again a Cabernet Sauvignon dominated four grape blend with each of the varieties fermented separately before being aged in 300 litre French Nevers oak barrels, 60% new and 40% second fill. After 8 months in barrel, the components were blended and given another 10 months in barrel for harmonization before bottling. I first tasted this wine in its component parts back in March 2018 with the then winemaker, Chris Williams. I knew instantly that we were in for another exceptional release of Rubicon. Then in January 2020, I met up with owner Hannes Myburgh in London and got my first taste of the Meerlust Red 2017, the second wine made up of components not used in the Rubicon blend. I was bowled over by the beauty of this wine and while it is only really sold in export markets, it served to raise my quality expectations for the Rubicon 2017 even higher.

In November 2019, winemaker Wim Truter joined Meerlust, taking over from Chris Williams to become only the third winemaker to take the reins at this historic estate. Chris finally followed his calling and agonisingly decided to move on to the next chapter of his winemaking career, to pursue his own Foundry wine project full time.

The old Meerlust farmstead with some of Hannes’s beloved dogs.

Meerlust Estate Rubicon 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13.6% Abv.

The 2017 Rubicon is a classical blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, each vinified separately before undergoing malolactic fermentation in 300 litre French Nevers oak barrels, 60% new and 40% second fill. Deep purple-black in colour, the intensity and gravitas of this vintage is highlighted by the tight, dense, dark broody aromatics that require more than a little coaxing out the glass before revealing a very focused, slightly introverted bouquet of complex, tightly interwoven notes of violets, black currant preserve, black plum, Black Forest gateaux and hoisin sauce with backing notes of dried fennel, salty black liquorice, spicy cedar and an exotic Asian 5 spice nuance. While 2017 certainly stands out as another classical year of exceptional quality, the vintage will surely be remembered for its stand-out elegance, seamless palate textures and its signature weightless intensity and concentration. This Rubicon does of course possess plenty of stuffing and dazzles with gentle waves of blackberry crumble, crème de cassis, macerated black cherries, freshly tilled earth, unsmoked cigars and a finely textured, powdery tannin frame that dries the palate on the finish and reminds the drinker that this wine, however enjoyable in its youth, is also built for extended ageing. This really is another exquisite vintage with charm and poise, Grand Vin potency and an overt, unbridled determination to deliver long-term drinking pleasure. Drink from 2022 to 2040+

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting a Mixed Meerlust Vintage Line Up in London With Hannes Myburgh…

After the 2015 vintage, which Meerlust maintains was its fastest selling Rubicon release in the history of the brand, 2016 was always going to be up against it in outright quality terms. But this warm hot and dry drought vintage was tough on everyone but in the end, yielded soft, plush, forward, earlier drinking reds of excellent quality.

I reviewed the Rubicon 2016 recently but was certainly pleased to taste the entire Meerlust range again in London with owner Hannes Myburgh. What really struck me was the uniformity of quality and style and an overall opulence and accessibility that makes this a vintage ready to start cracking open now.

Tasting in London with Hannes Myburgh

I’ll be in the Cape again soon and look forward to getting a sneak peek at the already bottled 2017 Meerlust Rubicon who’s component parts I last tasted with Chris Williams in early 2019. Since then, Chris has of course decided to move on to his Foundry Winery project full time while still lending a stylistic ‘guiding hand’ to new wine maker Wim Truter while he settles in and learns the ins and outs of this historic Stellenbosch estate.

Meerlust Chardonnay 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv

Classic youthful Chardonnay nose of lemon cream biscuits, puppy’s breath, vanilla pod and hints of oatmeal cookies. Fabulously cool, restrained and balanced, this has an incredible smokey Puligny meats Chassagne Montrachet nuttiness and minerality. Lovely freshness, definition and purity. Wow! This has Burgundy written all over it!!

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Meerlust Pinot Noir 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv

Spicy and intense with delicious foresty bramble berry notes, earthy sappy piquant red cherry and wild strawberry with hints of cedar and sappy spice. Palate is cool, sleek and light footed in a style built to accompany fine dining.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Meerlust Red 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Heavily orientated towards Cabernet Franc in this vintage with 55% supported by 33% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon to lend extra back bone. As expected this wine embraces the aromatic cedar and clove spices of Franc together with red berry fruited elegance, wild bramble berries and a saline Cabernet cassis intensity that carries the finish and turbo charges the concentration. Fabulous value for money! Fill your cellar!!

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Meerlust Merlot 2015, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Dark, broody, exotic nose of brûléed coffee beans, black currant, earthy black plum and sandalwood spice. Texturally this is spot on with fabulous freshness, textural elegance and sleek creamy sweet tannins. One of the finer single varietal Merlots produced in SA.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Dark and richly black fruited Cabernet with nuances of graphite, sweet tobacco, violets and earthy black currant fruits. Tannins are sweet and sappy and the palate weight creamy and fleshly with a really friendly accessibility. A fine earlier drinking effort in this drought vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Meerlust Rubicon 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 14 Abv.

Revisiting this classic wine after extra time in bottle helps it shine ever so brighter. There is sleek textural elegance, plush sweet polished tannins and earthy red and black currant fruit notes. Seamlessly assembled, this is a triumph for the vintage and shows a very agreeable early drinking opulence combined with palate breadth and depth. The cream always rises to the top. Ready to enjoy now!

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Meerlust Estate Previews Probably the Greatest Expression of Their Rubicon Red Blend in 38 Years of Production – Tasting the Meerlust Rubicon 2015 with Hannes Myburgh…

“Alea iacta est. The die is cast,” Julius Caesar is supposed to have said as he led his troops towards Rome in 49BC. The crucial border of the ancient capital was the Rubicon River, and the decision to cross it marked an irrevocable point in history. It would profoundly shift the course of Roman politics – there could be no turning back. On Wednesday the 24th January, Hannes Myburgh and the Meerlust Estate might just have crossed another epic Rubicon with the unveiling of their 2015 Meerlust Rubicon Bordeaux Blend in London.

Not due for release in the South African market for several more months, this is a wine that both owner Hannes Myburgh and winemaker Chris Williams believe could be the greatest expression of Rubicon ever made. As a long time follower of this wine, having tasted every vintage back to the maiden 1980 multiple times, I have to agree with them. Many great vintages of Rubicon have been produced over the past 38 years, but the 2015 vintage release coincides with what is almost certainly the greatest vintage for South African red and white wines in the modern winemaking era.

As if just to cast out any doubts, Hannes Myburgh unveiled the as yet unlabeled 2015 vintage at the end of a fascinating Rubicon vertical masterclass at their UK importer’s 2018 portfolio tasting.

Meerlust Rubicon Bordeaux Blend Vertical Tasting

Meerlust Rubicon 1986, 12.19 Abv.

A really traditional expression, the colour is still dark opaque brick red brown. The nose is classically proportioned revealing English breakfast tea, cedar spice, earthy bramble berries, lactic creamy milk chocolate and sweet tannery leather notes. Palate is super fresh, vibrant, almost tart, with a delicious earthy melange of red currants, tertiary sous bois, bruised red orchard fruits and bruised red plum. So fresh still, incredible purity, classical sweet cedary tannins and a very long brûléed coffee bean finish. Leaves you speechless. Drink now to 2030+.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Meerlust Rubicon 1991, 13 Abv.

Very fine wet earth complexity to begin, this wine is perfumed and intense showing saline cassis, iodine, briney oyster shell, sweet boxwood notes and complex hints of grilled herbs. The palate still shows such rich vibrancy, sweet black tea intensity, black current coulis and a suave, creamy sweet tannin finish. So fresh, bright, pure, dense and utterly youthful! Lovely structure balanced by big concentration. Utterly spellbinding. Drink now to 2035+.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Meerlust Rubicon 2001, 13.5 Abv.

One of the all time greats from Meerlust, this was one of Giorgio dalla Cia’s last great vintages which won the Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Best Bordeaux Blend Trophy in 2006. Still beautifully vital and intensely coloured showing a crystalline ruby red hue. The nose is jam packed full of black cassis fruit, brûléed coffee beans, violets and sweet dried baking spices. Plush, lush and almost weightless in the mouth, the palate is so broad, concentrated, vibrant and intense, with the most harmonious youthful balance and seamless silky balance with just a hint of salinity and mineral graphite on the finish. So suave, so regal, this is a wine that defines elegance. A true South African icon. Drink now to 2040+.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Meerlust Rubicon 2005, 13.94 Abv.

So very classical on the nose, you could be sitting on the banks of the Grionde in Bordeaux drinking a classical Pauillac when you taste this wine. Chris Williams’ second solo vintage, he considers this wine possibly one of the best Meerlusts ever made. Still starkly youthful, the nose is packed with black tea, cedar spice, violets, dried herbs and pot pourri complexity with an underlay of saline cassis, oyster shell and slightly drying, powdery grippy tannins. At this embryonic stage, it has all the power, grip and intensity to justify long term aging. Very classy, slightly showy and deliciously fresh with a great long future ahead of it. Drink now to 2045+.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Meerlust Rubicon 2010, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot that was matured for 24 months in 60% new oak from Nevers. The 2010 Rubicon has a well defined smokey bouquet showing sweet blackberry mixed with blueberry fruit opulence. Another very classical expression, this wine also has Bordeaux left bank written all over it. Quite dense and youthful, showing grilled herbs, graphite, bold sweet tannins and an elegant, balanced acidity. This is going to continue improving for a good 15+ years. Not quite as eye catching yet as some Rubicon vintages, but you can expect this wine to blossom further and improve in bottle. Drink now to 2040+.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Meerlust Rubicon 2015, 14 Abv.

(Bottled in November 2017)

A mesmerizingly dark black purple colour, this youthful wine is wonderfully crystalline, focused and pure, possessing such pretty aromatics of cherry blossom, rose petals, caramelised cranberries, violets, cherry pie, raspberry infused herbal tea and a subtle creamy vanilla pod extravagance. The palate is ultra suave, opulent yet effortlessly fresh and defined, supremely balanced and concentrated. Such gorgeous depth and seamless elegance, a tantalizing brûléed buttered brown toast complexity, creamy filigree tannins and an incredibly long, spellbinding finish. This is going to be a definite future icon vintage on par with the very best Cru Classe wines produced in Bordeaux but at a fraction of the price. Get in early, get in quick, and go long. This is one of the most profound Rubicons of the modern era. Drink from 2020 to 2045+.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Block Buster On the Way – Tasting the 2017 Meerlust Chardonnay with Owner Hannes Myburgh…

This 1756 wine estate has long been the pride and joy of South Africans since the 1970s and the corresponding love for this estate and its wines is practically ingrained in the South African psyche.

I’ve known both owner Hannes Myburgh and winemaker Chris Williams for a very long time so catching up with either of them in London is always a privilege. After a brief visit to Ireland, Hannes was straight back into the London trade to present a fantastic Rubicon Vertical in London, for which the write up is to follow soon.

But the Meerlust Chardonnay is a wine which has a following almost as passionate and loyal as that of the Rubicon. So today, given the opportunity, I dived straight in to review this new vintage classic.

Meerlust Chardonnay 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

A very pale, faded apple core yellow, this is another wonderfully expressive Chardonnay from Chris Williams championing the “less is more” mantra with this restrained style. The nose is complex yet classically restrained revealing layers of smokey green Granny Smith apples, green pears, crunchy honeydew melon and a tantalising suggestion of struck match and dusty minerality. Lovely clarity, purity and focus throughout. Despite the lower 13 Abv, this wine is jam packed with intense flavours of sweet ripe lemons, lime cordial, honey suckle, toffee apple and green gauge fruits, embroidered and embellished with intense piercing fresh acids. Very polished and grown up, you can see instantly why this impressive wine remains a perennial consumer favourite. Another real beauty to drink from release and for 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)