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Meerlust Red Blend 2014
Meerlust is one of South Africa's most famous and historical wine estates. The land where the farm is now situated was originally owned by a powerful and wealthy free burgher named Henning Huising. After his death in 1713 the estate passed through many hands until it was bought in 1756 by Johannes Albertus Myburgh - and has remained in the Myburgh family ever since.
Nicholaas Myburgh (7th generation of the Myburgh family, and father of present owner Hannes Myburgh) took over the farm in 1950, but the condition of the property had declined severely from its 18th century splendor. Nicolaas set about an extensive restoration of both the buildings and the vineyards. One of his first projects was the construction of a damn that allows for irrigation in exceptionally dry years, but is usually used only after the vintage. He also replanted the vineyards with mainly red varietals.
The farm is approximately 15 kilometers outside Stellenbosch, and is the Stellenbosch estate nearest the Indian Ocean (the name Meerlust is of German origin, and translates to "pleasure of the sea"). The cooling breezes off False Bay allow a slower, steadier ripening period for the grapes. This translates to less loss of fruit aromas, and there is also a lesser risk of a crop being ruined in the event of a sudden, dramatic rise in temperature.
South Africa’s most famous wine-producing district, Stellenbosch, surrounds its historic town with the same name; fine winemaking here dates back to the late 1600s. Its valleys of granite, sandstone and alluvial loam soils between the towering blue-grey mountains of Stellenbosch, Simonsberg and Helderberg have the capacity to produce beautiful wines from many varieties. The climate is warm Mediterranean, tempered by the cool Atlantic air of nearby False Bay.
Perhaps most well-known for its Pinotage and Bordeaux blends, Stellenbosch also produces noteworthy wines from Syrah, Chenin blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc. The district’s wards—Banghoek, Bottelary, Devon Valley, Jonkershoek Valley, Papegaaiberg, Polkadraai Hills and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch—all produce distinctive wines from vines with relatively low yields.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde River, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.
In the Glass
Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines modeled after the Right Bank are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure. Wines from Bordeaux lean towards a highly structured and earthy style whereas New World areas (as in the ones named above) tend to produce bold and fruit-forward blends. Either way, Bordeaux red blends generally have aromas and flavors of black currant, cedar, plum, graphite, and violet, with more red fruit flavors when Merlot makes up a high proportion of the blend.
Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb or smoked duck.
While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties in specified percentages, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, for example. Occassionally a winemaker might add a small percentage of a non-Bordeaux variety, such as Syrah or Petite Sirah for a desired result.