Friday, February 20, 2009

Meerendal Vertical Tasting of Pinotage and Shiraz 1969 - 2008

Meerendal celebrates forty years of bottled wine in South Africa!

Friday, February 6, 2009

The exact day that Meerendal was granted to Free
Burger Jan Meerland in 1702, a big celebration took place at Meerendal Estate.

As part of the South African Wine Industry's 350 years celebration, Meerendal has added its celebration:

It is forty years ago since the first release appeared under the Meerendal label in 1969, a Pinotage and a Shiraz, Meerendal was also one of only a handful estate that started bottling wine in the 1960's through KWV, of relevance it’s important to note that Meerendal was also one of the original 14 wine estates proclaimed in 1973, when the Wine of Origin system was established.

Being the only Certified Sommelier present, I felt honoured and fortunate enough to be invited and rubbed shoulders (discreetly of course, it is a fact that good Sommelier, should always be modest, humble and down to earth, after all we are only wine servants…..) alongside South Africa’s most respected Wine writers, some of the Cape most experience winemakers, Industry leaders, Cape Wine Masters, owners of Fine Wine Shops at this famous Estate in Durbanville to celebrate.

We sat down in the cellar to a fascinating vertical tasting of Meerendal Pinotage and Shiraz spanning the forty years. It included those 1969 wines as well as a selection of Vintages from the 1970's, 1980's, 1990's and the 2000's to mark this historic occasion.

Both the Pinotage and the Shiraz are amongst a handful Cape wines worthy of listings in any fine dining environment of the world’s best establishment, or from a private collectors perspective, they show balance, finesse, elegance with just the right amount of so call New World fruitiness, but above all the structure to improve and mature with cellaring.

The fine acidity and savoury character in both wines throughout the vintages was another bonus, when it comes to pairing with foods.

After that tasting, there is one thing that further support an ongoing personal observations of the past 5 years, yes great Cape wines do have the aptitude to age and improve with time, showing multifaceted complexity, the 1969 on both were still in pristine condition as well as all the 70’s and 80’s and I must admit it’s the oldest still wine from South Africa, I have tasted to date, and there was so much to learn about the evolution of one of the most fascinating wine producing countries of the world, if the wines of the 60’s to mid 90’s were all low in alcohol +/- 13% alc, the wines from 1995 were all over 14% alc with some past 15% alc, which is a worldwide trend and obsession with full phenolic ripeness as well as global warming, adding it’s shares in the equation.

This is a growing misconception amongst restaurant patrons, as well as a handful of Sommeliers about the age ability of Cape wines, in general yes 97 % will not see the 5 - 8 years old mark from vintage, but the remaining 3 % certainly have the legs and structure, to improve well over that period, and rubbed shoulders with the world’s best in terms of longevity and I believe we as Sommeliers should be as good an educator as possible to our patrons, and help in the process, of better understanding mature Cape wines with food pairings.

Certainly after tasting this line up and closely analysing the co-relation between Total Acid and pH, of each wine tasted, there was indeed very little variation between the wines made in 1969 all the way up to the latest vintage in barrel, therefore I must conclude that the doubt about the modern wine if they will age as well as their predecessor, I would say YES, with no doubt and actually, the modern wine will have an edge in 40 years time (2005 - 2008) as their fruit concentration is much more saturated, hence will last longer, (well if kept under optimum cellaring condition) after this line up there is one things that needs to be applauded in the Meerendal Pinotage and Shiraz, is the quest for balance wines, irrespective of change of winemakers and this is more a proof of terroir influence rather than man influence. The vines have happy feet.

Balance wines is the key for longevity, further complimented by the age of the vines, these are 2 wines that should be on any respected wine list of the world’s finest dining address, as they epitomise the greatness of the Cape know how, they are for sure amongst my list of top 100 South African wines I can recommend, to the most demanding wine connoisseurs, at a click of a finger.

The unique and interesting factor in the Pinotage tasting, was all the wines were made
from grapes from the same vineyard, planted by Kosie Starke in 1955 that is still producing fabulous fruit, its 6.2 hectares in size with 18041 bush vines.

The vineyard is called the "Heritage Block" hence the name on the label and the planting material came from the original stock of vines from the father of Pinotage, Prof Abraham Perold. The Starke family was good friends of Prof Perold.

History, heritage, respect of traditions, proof of ageability, all the factors required to sell that special bottle, to create a unique wine experience in a fine dining context.

To further cement this historic occasion cuttings were taken from the Heritage Block Pinotage vines, last year and 350 young vines have been propagated by Cape Vines that will be ready to plant in a special location next to the Heritage Block in August 2009.

In this way the heritage and legacy of Pinotage at Meerendal will be ensured as it is also part of the festivities of South African Wine 350 Years.

The tasting was concluded with a great surprise - the first tasting of the Meerendal
Methode Cap Classique Sparkling wine - a Blanc de Blanc 100% Chardonnay MCC from the 2007 vintage.

My Tasting Note of the 2007 Meerendal Méthode Cap Classique Brut - 85 Points

“Pale, brilliant, lively mousse, expressive and very fragrant aromas for a Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay, sweet oak character along with a medley of delicately ripe citrus fruit and orange blossoms, good attack with tight acidity, well complimented with leesy character, broad mouth feel, long length, very good debut, will improved with cellaring when the faint nutty character, present now will be more pronounce and adds to the overall complexity of the wine.
A must have, well made Cap Classique, on the fruity side for now, great as an aperitif, but as the wine ages will be more suitable to serious and complex dishes, such as cream base infused with white truffles and crustaceans”. Only 2100 bottles made.
With an amazing low Ph of only 3,09 and a Total Acidity of 7,18, enjoy this MCC from winter 2009, but will also age very well, under optimum condition until around 2022+

The arrival of the Meerendal Bubbly was done in traditional style, with Meerendal's
Marketing manager Bennie Howard, Cape Wine Master, doing the Sabrage and Liza Goodwin, Cellar master, tasting the first glass and pouring it for the guests.

Here is the list of wines tasted on that very special day as well as my own tasting note and rating using the 100 point scoring system:

Current cellar price is approximately 30 Euros per bottle


Meerendal Durbanville Shiraz 1969 – 88 Points
Alc – 13.02 / Rs – 1.1 / Ta – 5.3 – pH – 3.69
Clear, deep mahogany, very earthy, pronounced cherry pip, complex, multilayered with minty character, pure preserved red fruit in kirsch, fresh, broad mouth feel. Now until 2014.

Meerendal Durbanville Shiraz 1972 – 90+ Points

Alc – 13.44 / Rs – 1.34 / Ta – 4.99 – pH – 3.7
Clear, day bright, mahogany red with brown rim, pronounced tea leaf character, fresh, ripe dark fruit, spicy, very long length. Now until 2014

Meerendal Durbanville Shiraz 1973 – 90+ Points
Alc – 13.55 / Rs – 1.87 / Ta – 4.51 – pH – 3.66
Clear, day bright, mahogany red with brown rim, medium plus concentration and medium plus viscosity, complex tea scent, lacquer, light soft palate, lingering spicy black pepper. Now until 2014.

Meerendal Durbanville Shiraz 1978 – 86+ Points

Alc – 12.17 / Rs – 1.32 / Ta – 5.03 – pH – 3.71
Clear, day bright, mahogany tea like colour, some sediment, medium concentration, high viscosity, Oolong tea scents, multidimensional, complex, earthy, lighter and less attack than 1981, hints of brown mushroom medley contributes to the overall complexity. Now until 2013

Meerendal Durbanville Shiraz 1981 – 91 Points
Alc – 12.71 / Rs – 1.05 / Ta – 5.93 – pH – 3.8
Clear, day bright, mahogany red with brown rim, some sediment, medium concentration, high viscosity, earthy, dry currants, tamarind like acidity, so pure and complex, with baked prunes aftertaste, excellent. Now until 2021

Meerendal Durbanville Shiraz 1989 – 88+ Points
Alc – 12.41 / Rs – 1.95 / Ta – 6.12 – pH – 3.41
Clear, day bright, mahogany red hue with brown rim, medium concentration and medium plus viscosity, complex, oaky, forest floor character adds dimension and charm, pure and fresh, Darjeeling tea leaf scents, very elegant overall. Now until 2024

Meerendal Durbanville Shiraz 1995 (Magnum) – 85 Points
Alc – 12.19 / Rs – 2.67 / Ta – 5.79 – pH – 3.4
Clear, day bright, mahogany red hue, brown rim, earthy, gamey, dried cured meat, Demerara sugar, soft palate structure, singing elegance, good length, with slight aftertaste of dry eucalyptus leaf, a treat. Will plateau for a long time due to lovely acidity, that gave the wine life, will not get better, optimum drinking now or until 2015

From 2005 the fruit comes from block 25 and is 4.8 hectares in size with 16012 vines

Meerendal Bin 159 Durbanville Shiraz 2005 – 87 Points
Alc – 15.1 / Rs – 3.1 / Ta – 6.3 / pH – 3.7 – Harvested 15 March, from block 25, planted in 2001 – 16 month in New French oak – Bottle 1st December 2006 – 5600 bottles were made.

1st official vintage of block 25. Clear, deep red, crimson hue, medium plus concentration and medium plus viscosity, fragrant ripe dark fruit, rosemary flower, very feminine, good tannic grip, lovely savoury texture with black olives notes, from now until 2052

Meerendal Bin 159 Durbanville Shiraz 2006 – 85 Points
Alc – 14.61 / Rs – 2.8 / Ta – 6.3 / pH – 3.65 – Harvested 9 March – 16 months in New French oak – Bottle on 18 January 2008 – 5600 bottles were made
Clear, bright, cherry red with purple rim, gamey earthy, expressive marmite / Bovril character, bright acidity, need time, from now until 2046

Meerendal Bin 159 Durbanville Shiraz 2007 - Barrel samples – 90 Points
Alc – 14.81 / Rs – 2.04 / Ta – 6.54 / pH – 3.57 – Harvested on the 14 March – 17 months in New French oak –Will be bottle April 2009
Clear, day bright, ruby red with purple rim, medium plus concentration and high viscosity, clean, earthy character predominate the dark fruit, complex savoury notes of black olives and sundried tomato, Rhône in style, very much a food wine, needs time to fully express, from 2012 until 2047

Meerendal Bin 157 Durbanville Shiraz 2008 - Barrel samples – 89 Points
Alc – 14.56 / Rs – 1.54 / Ta – 5.92 / Ph – 3.69 – Harvested on 12 March – New French oak.
Clear, bright, ruby red with purple rim, medium plus concentration and high plus viscosity, clean, fragrant, jammy red berries, toast, spicy mixture of cloves, cinnamon and coarse black pepper, ripe.
Fresh attack, good concentration, lovely oak structure, still integrating, from 2011 until 2053

My top 3 Shiraz of the day was:

1 - Meerendal Durbanville Shiraz 1981 – 91 Points
2 - Meerendal Durbanville Shiraz 1972 – 90+ Points
2 - Meerendal Durbanville Shiraz 1973 – 90+ Points
3 - Meerendal Bin 159 Durbanville Shiraz 2007 - Barrel samples – 90 Points

Tomato Catering Suggest:
A classic matured and 2 weeks marinated Angus beef rump roast, scented with garlic, lavender and thyme, served with panache of crunchy baby vegetables cooked in unsalted butter and peppered Shiraz gravy and Yorkshire pudding.


Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 1969 – 89 Points
Alc – 13.16 / Rs – 1.59 / Ta – 4.49 – pH – 3.78
Deep mahogany, some sediment, complex notes of cherry, prunes and earthy character, excellent length. Now until 2014

Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 1970 – 87 Points
Alc – 13.72 / Rs – 1.88 / Ta – 4.23 – pH – 3.82
Mahogany hue, brown rim, medium plus concentration and medium viscosity, some sediment, initially austere, but thereafter unfold in a ripe / preserved cherry pip, this is a very delicate wine, that sings elegance and finesse, a food wine par excellence. Now until 2014.

Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 1971 – 86+ Points
Alc – 12.3 / Rs – 1.79 / Ta – 4.88 – pH – 3.70
Deep mahogany, medium plus concentration, medium viscosity, sediment, soft structure, elegant, very fresh, difficult to say it’s a mature Pinotage, excellent.
Now until 2016

Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 1978 – 83+ Points
Alc – 13.4 / Rs – 1.14 / Ta – 4.91 – pH – 3.78
Clear, with mahogany, brown sherry colour, earthy, complex dry cherry, prunes character well supported with acidity. Now until 2013

Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 1981 – 86 Points
Alc – 13.02 / Rs – 1.1 / Ta – 5.3 – pH – 3.69
Clear, mahogany hue with brown rim, earthy character intermingles with preserved maraschino cherries, fresh and savoury.
Now until 2026

Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 1982 – 88+ Points
Alc – 13.37 / Rs – 1.8 / Ta – 5.59 – pH – 3.54
Clear, bright, with mahogany hue, medium concentration, high viscosity, some sediment, gamey, animal scented, complex cherry, sa Pinote, tea leaf scent, earthy with some mintiness, very good length. Now until 2027.

Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 1996 (Magnum) – 88+ Points
Alc – 12.28 / Rs – 2.1 / Ta – 5.6 – pH – 3.45
Clear, bright, brick red slight brown rim, medium concentration, some sediment, medium plus viscosity, high octane aromas, rich, multidimensional, good acidity and freshness, now until 2042+

Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 2005 – 89+ Points
Alc – 14.29 / Rs – 3 / Ta – 6.7 – pH – 3.68 – Harvested 15 February – 16 months New French oak – Bottle 10 October 2006 – 3700 bottles were made.
Clear, day bright, crimson red, cherry rim, ripe, raisin, complex notes of prunes, multilayered with some lead pencil complexity, lighter palate structure than 2006, more Pinot Noir in character. Now until 2048+

Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 2006 – 91+ Points
Alc – 13.94 / Rs – 3 / Ta – 6.6 – pH – 3.58 – Harvested 17 February – 16 months New French oak – Bottle 12 December 2007 – 4500 bottles were made.
Clear, compact, dark red cherry, crimsom purple rim, ripe fragrant, fresh good attack, textured, need time. Lovely acid structure. From 2012 until 2047+

Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 2007 - Barrel samples – 92 Points
Alc – 14.62 / Rs – 2.99 / Ta – 6.35 – pH – 3.6 – Harvested 15 February – 17 months in New French oak – Will be bottle in April 2009
Clear, red / blue with vibrant purple rim, turmeric spices, fresh, savoury, and elegant with lively acidity and good tannic grip, needs time for this sleeping giant. Will be fantastic with mature venison. From 2013 to 2052+

Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 2008 - Barrel samples – 90+ Points
Alc – 14.21 / Rs – 1.35 / Ta – 5.81 – pH – 3.72 – Harvested 15 February – New French oak barrels
Clear, red / blue purple rim, very fragrant, concentrated, rich explosive lavender essence, multidimensional, ripe, good tannic grip. From 2010 until 2045+

My top 3 Pinotage of the day was:

1 - Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 2007 - Barrel samples – 92 Points
2 - Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 2006 – 91+ Points
3 - Meerendal Durbanville Pinotage 2008 - Barrel samples – 90+ Points

Tomato Catering Suggest :
A trio of medium rare Venison, Oven roasted peppered Springbok fillet, Pastis marinated grilled Gemsbok loin and pan fried Kudu steak, served with plum chutney, enhance with star anise, summer black truffle shavings and Meerendal Pinotage Jus Corsé.

The occasion was concluded with a delicious al fresco lunch where guests were seated
at two long tables, a very traditional seating arrangement in the world of wine.



Sesame crusted Franschhoek Salmon Trout with salsa verdi

Mixed greens, asparagus, cherry tomatoes and bocconcini

Sauvignon Blanc 2008 – Did not taste

Bin 242 Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (barrel fermented) – 86 Points
2nd vintage, this was my lunch wine, having tasted it previously in 2008 at Cape Wine 2008, this is an extremely fine and subtly wooded Sauvignon Blanc, showing very fine and crunchy acidity very well meshed with the fragrant oak, the long broad and complex mouth feel, with delicate oily texture and hints of cardamon spices, is intriguing.
Wooded Sauvignon is starting to make a serious appearance in the Cape and this is a very fine style between the complex and world class Graves style of the Quoin Rock The Nicobar from Cape Agulhas and the fleshy, linear driven Jordan wooded Sauvignon from Stellenbosch, highly recommended for a great wooded Chardonnay alternatives. From now until 2016+

Chardonnay 2006 – Did not taste

Main Course

Beef fillet rubbed with wholegrain mustard and rosemary and a red wine jus
Deboned and rolled free-range chicken with black mushroom and truffle filling
Wild rice and quinoa pilaf with sultanas and nuts

Grilled Vegetables

Heritage Block Pinotage 2006 – Was my lunch wine of the day with the beef fillet, perfect pairing.

Pinotage Magnums 1996

Bin 159 Shiraz 2006

Shiraz Magnums 1995


Apple Tarte Tatin with saffron and mint ice cream
Chenin Blanc Natural Sweet 2008 – 90 Points
This was a revelation. Fragrant, complex, botrytis notes along with aromas you might encounter in a young Tokaji, rich, very complex mouth feel without being overly sweet and cloying, it was vibrant and very refreshing, and it was a match made in heaven with the Tarte Tatin, elegant and lots of finesse. It’s a work of art.
From now until 2040.