It’s not often that Merlot is the stand-out wine in a South African producers range but that’s certainly the case when it comes to the latest releases from Dombeya, the second label from Stellenbosch producer Haskell Vineyards.
The wine spent 16 months in barrel, 30% new. An alcohol by volume of 14.9% and a residual sugar of 3.6g/l suggest that the wine might be quite a hefty number but it comes across as remarkably medium bodied and harmonious. Plenty of concentration without becoming unduly weighty – always a difficult trick to pull off. A wide array of flavours which include both red and black fruit as well as dark chocolate. What’s the secret to top quality in Merlot in South Africa? “Love,” says winemaker Rianie Strydom, who used to make a pretty decent single variety version during her time at Morgenhof. Price per bottle is R85, so a real bargain.
I also liked the Sauvignon Blanc 2011, grapes sourced from across Stellenbosch and including 10% Semillon fermented in old oak for extra palate weight. This wine shows plenty of granadilla and pineapple but is not overly rich or soupy as is often the case with Sauvignon at the riper end of the flavour spectrum. Price per bottle: R60.
The Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 is worth a look as well. Cassis and violets on the nose, a palate which shows good fruit definition and a finish which is pleasingly austere (R85 a bottle). I didn’t particularly care for the Chardonnay 2010 (R95) which I found lean and attenuated nor the Boulder Road Shiraz 2008 (R96) which seemed under-ripe and oak dominated.