Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Winemag Merlot Report Presentation 2017

Merlot worldwide is a very popular varietal, producing wines of good fruit and sometimes great quality. We get the feeling that South Africa has begun to grow it in the right places and is learning about the correct handling of this quite difficult grape. We all have experienced those extracted, minty, green and tough Merlots and, if we are lucky, those voluptuous fruit driven elegant wines that the grape can produce if properly grown and made
Winemag.co.za presented the first annual Merlot Report in association with the official producer body known as the Merlot Forum. The certificate awards ceremony took place last week at Asara Estate in Stellenbosch. They do not yet have a sponsor and we do hope that they find one soon, as we feel that this grape is about to do good things for our market and needs support
67 entries were received from 50 producers. These were tasted blind (labels out of sight) by the three-person panel: Christian Eedes, Roland Peens and James Pietersen. Scoring was according to the 100-point quality scale. We feel that the judges have a slight bias towards the French style of merlot; apparently they included a bottle of French Merlot in the blind tasting! Was this as a benchmark? They should not ignore the fact that South Africa would struggle to reproduce this style, we have too much sunshine and warmth and our climate, soils and terroir are not comparable. Besides which, the style now emerging here, made by our own winemakers, will always be different and is often delicious. We did not detect one green wine in these tasted and no mint, although one winemaker attending was heard to say he misses it!
A large contingent of winemakers and a few media and wine trade attended
Maryna Calow of Wines of South Africa with Mike Bampfield Duggan of Wine Concepts and Lynne chat about the industry with a glass of Dainty Bess MCC bubble, made from Pinot Noir
Jacqueline Lahoud of WineMag.co.za introduced the awards
The crowd, many of them winemakers with entries, waits in anticipation. The bottles were covered on tables around the room and, as the awards were announced, the covers were removed to reveal them
The top mark, which was 92 out of 100, went to two wines. The Org de Rac 2015 Merlot. Expensive wood but shy, the fruit holding back on the nose. Integrated fruit and wood on the palate with high acidity and alcohol (14.5%) this wine is made to last and is in the French style, which we find these judges seem to prefer. Price: R64 - a bargain for the quality and keeping potential
Also top with 92 points was the Boschendal 1685 2015. Quite similar in style to the Org de Rac with Expensive wood, red and black berries on the palate with warmth of 14% alcohol. Price: R110
With 90 points was the Delaire Graff 2014. A block buster that blows your head back, toasty with good black fruit which then softens to sweetness, a kick of alcohol and a long finish. Price: R295
90 also for the Shannon 2015 made for Woolworths with its dive-in nose, so Merlot, so ready to rock and roll. Intense fruit in layers, both red and black, long flavours. It has a perfect balance of wood, tannin, fruit acid, alcohol, and sugar so should last well. Elgin looks, to us, more and more like the place to cultivate good merlot. We have tasted some crackers from Elgin in the last year. Price: R159.95 at Woolworths . We are delighted to say we recently bought a case at Woolworths
And 90 for the Lourensford Limited Release 2015. Elegance on the nose, soft fruit and good incense wood on the nose. Then hot berry fruit and good acid on the palate. Long. Price: R180
89 for Groenland Premium 2015 which had some lactic flavours, Lots of berries with some fruit acidity. Price: R140
89 for Buitenverwachting 2012. Many of us were surprised at this low score. It is very deep and full of berry fruit with incense wood and tight tannins and shows huge quality. On discussion later with many wine makers and others it seems that this wine was the one most discussed and many people said it was their favourite, with the best potential for aging 10 years or more. Well done Brad. Price: R160
89 for KWV Cathedral Cellar 2014. It  has an excellent nose with good fruit and wood. Rich nice layered berry fruits, drinking well now. Price: R115 A popular wine
And 89 for the Overgaauw 2015 with its violet perfumed red berries, tight tannins, licorice and a little salt flick. Lynne detected perhaps a little Petite Verdot hint? Overgaauw was the first farm to plant Merlot in South Africa, with their first bottling in 1982. Price: R130. Also popular in the room
As was the Whalehaven 2013 with 89 points. Lovely, classic Merlot nose, incense wood on the nose, toasted on the palate with sweet fruit and a little brulée. Price: R183
89 for Yonder Hill 2014 which was quite savoury and different. Price: R190
Christian Eedes chatting with Brad Paton, Cellarmaster of Buitenverwachting.
The winners all together
Some pizzas were served after the tasting

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