“We want our Merlot to be perceived firstly as a proper wine, then as a wine with no added sulphur and only then as using rooibos and honey bush,” says Michael van Niekerk, winemaker at Audacia in Stellenbosch.
Grapes were tank-fermented and then chipped rooibos and honey bush were added – the wine is very fragrant on the nose (as you might expect) and the palate shows juicy red fruit before a spicy finish. It’s not unlikeable and a lot more convincing than coffee Pinotage.
The rooibos and honey bush are obviously adding to the aroma and flavour but are they also performing the preservative role that would normally belong to sulphur? “I honestly don’t know. I made experimental batches in 2011 and 2012 and these are still perfect. We’re working closely with the University of Stellenbosch to find out more,” says Van Niekerk.
Audacia is jointly owned by Trevor Strydom and FirstRand Group founder Paul Harris who together set out to find a “blue ocean opportunity”, which is to say uncontested market space in the wine industry, this Merlot selling for R180 a bottle, the outcome.