Plaisir de Merle Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

March 27, 2014
by Christian
in What I Drank Last Night
with 2 Comments

After rating Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 86/100, a somewhat mediocre score for a bottle of wine costing R149, I wondered if I wasn’t guilty of “Distell bashing” and so resolved to try two other Cabs from SA’s biggest producer-wholesaler.

First, the Neethlingshof 2010 (R76 a bottle), remarkable in that it is has a circa 1990s abv of 12.55% according to the producer-supplied fact sheet. I queried via Twitter whether reverse osmosis or even simple dilution had been used to get this low alcohol but winemaker De Wet Viljoen assured me that it was simply due to careful vineyard management.  The bad news is the wine appears pretty retro in other ways: thin and a bit weedy – score: 81/100.

Does what it says on the tin.

Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Next the Plaisir de Merle Cab 2010 (R150 a bottle) and a wine which I thought was much more on song. Dark fruit, violets, an attractive herbal note and oak spice. Good concentration, fresh acidity and firm but fine tannins. Significantly more convincing than the Alto.

So what to score it? I referenced my Cabernet Report of last year where the Plaisir de Merle was rated 3½ Stars with me noting that the wine had a “slight raisin quality” (2010 a hot vintage) and seemed “heavily extracted”. Angela Lloyd reviewing it for the current edition of Platter’s also rated it 3½ Stars remarking on “simple, already evolving flavours”.

I think there’s enough to the Plaisir de Merle to give it a score of 86/100 but that would mean the Alto would have to be ratcheted down a point or two. The 100-point system is supposed to provide greater calibration than its 20-point/5 Star counterpart but I suspect I’m still inclined to be nervous of scoring either too high or too low.

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  1. KwispedoorMarch 27, 2014 at 10:16 amReply

    I suppose you might have seen what Jamie Goode said about scoring systems and in particular the 100-point silliness (

    He was rather eloquent, I thought, and I pretty much agree with him. I understand why you guys give scores. It gives perspective to the tasting notes and many consumers prefer to see ratings. The 100-point system really is stupid to me, but I also understand that it’s done to fit in to a degree.

    What I do know is that a score on its own means very little (all 86’s aren’t equal). There are so many variables, I can’t begin to mention them. The only small value it has for me, is categorization (86 clearly represents a different category than 92). Also, if the same taster rated one wine 86 and the other 90, he/she clearly preferred the latter.

    So it makes sense to me that you want to re-score the Alto. In the end I suppose it is more about relative positioning than ultimate values. At least you’re honest and willing to acknowledge kinks in the armour of this whole dodgy scoring business. To me, that actually adds a bit of credibility.

  2. jonathanMarch 27, 2014 at 9:59 amReply

    a blind tasting of corporate v small to medium could be revealing

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