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Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Love of the sea

I am currently in South africa judging at the Michelangelo CCL international Wine Awards and decided to take the chance to visit Chris Williams, the current head wine maker at Meerlust. With me was one of my fellow judges, Guiseppe Rizzardi of the Guerrieri Rizzardi Estate in Verona. Meerlust means love of the sea, hence the title!I have always enjoyed Meerlust wines and we were treated extremely well by Chris. After a brief history of the estate and a short tour of the facilities we settled down for a great tasting. The estate has been there since the 17th century and has a long history of fruit and crop production. Wine became important with time and for many years now Meerlust has been one of the flagship properties in Stellenbosch.
When I first met Chris he was the assistant winemaker and he left briefly in the late 1990s to set up his own wine venture but returned in 2004 to take over his current position.
Meerlust is renowned for its red wines and currently has only one white wine, a chardonnay. And a very good one too - the 2009 we tasted from sites close to the river had a lovely rich but elegant fruit style, clean with very good use of oak and a long finish. Almost Burgundian in style it is one of the best chardonnays I've tasted from South Africa.
Two pinots noirs were among the reasons I wanted to visit, as I've known for some time that pinot has great potential on tis estate but often failed to live up to its promise. The 2010 was elegant, with cherry fruits and quite supple, the 2009 had richer texture and a sweet finish. Both are fairly savoury - Burgundian again! - but are very nice wines. Soon, some new clones and plots will come into play and it is lokely that the wine will get a bit more flesh, though without losing elegance.
The 2007 merlot (with 10% cabernet franc) was plummy, rich and round, with a slightly firm edge to the tannins. Chris noted that from the 2008 on, a recently purchased block of old vine merlot will add more opulence and roundness to the blend. A good merlot with nice structure.
The 2007 Rubicon is, of course, the estate's flagship wine and showed lovely depth and elegance. A blend of 74% cabernet sauvignon, 15% merlot and 11% cabernet franc it was a rich, round wine with plenty of time ahead of it. As an aside, on the 1977 MW tour of South Africa, the estate asked the visiting MWs to develop a blend on the spot and that blend became Rubicon!
Chris will soon have some petit verdot to use in the blend which he feels will enable him to adjust acid, tannin and fruit components more effectively. We talked about Bordeaux blends which were once the classic Cape style but are now out of fashion (those tasted at the judging performed less well than hoped for). There has been a big move towards Rhone-style wines and while some are very sucessful, it would be a shame if the Bordeaux blend went out of focus.
The last Meerlust wine was the 2009 cabernet sauvignon which had an amazing balance between powerful ripe black fruit and real elegance and grace. A more accessible wine than the Rubicon, which really needs ageing, it is a really good wine, well made.
Then two whites blind - the first had really appley fruit, slight honey, quite fresh acidity, a round and full palate, and a long, clean finish. I thought it might be a chenin due to the fruit and acid balance but it turned out to be The Foundry Roussanne 2010 from Chris's own winery. Lovely stuff. The second was definitely a chardonnay - apple flavours throughout, with a big but elegant style, obviously from a cool zone in a warm region. I guessed Malmesbury and Chris complimented me on being right about one aspect. It was from the Paardeberg, a warm mountain heading towards Malmesbury but it wasn't chardonnay - it was grenache blanc! Gorgeous and well worth seeking out.
All in all, a great afternoon and thanks Chris!

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