Robertson property De Wetshof, famed for its various versions of Chardonnay, has gone all in with a top-end red, Louis Michel Thibault 2009 (after the French architect who designed some of the Cape’s more noteworthy 18th and 19th century buildings). It’s a blend of 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, matured for 18 months in French oak, 100% new, and it bears a R250 price tag.
The brains trust seems uncertain whether to position it as a blend or as a Merlot (as they would be entitled to be given that the Cab proportion comes in at under 15%) but for me it naturally bears comparison to what the likes of Hartenberg, Shannon and Thelema are doing with Merlot on its own than any Bordeaux-style blend.
Danie de Wet, one of the industry’s elder statesmen, has made the wines here since the 1970s but increasingly seems to be giving son Pieter more responsibility. Pieter, who worked the 2006 harvest in St. Emilion, reckons South Africa can make good Merlot. “Figure out your vineyard and go full-ripe”. The Thibault 2009 was picked two weeks later than convention as reflected in an alcohol by volume of 14.9%.
Does it stack up? There’s ripe black fruit and vanilla on nose and palate. Sweet upfront, moderate acidity, nice oak-derived spice on the finish. Indeed fully ripe but happily not over-ripe. Basically, it’s unashamedly opulent and sure to have its fans but I’d like a touch more freshness. Score: 16.5/20.