If Merlot hasn’t already taken over from Pinotage as the most problematic red wine category in South Africa, then it should. Even so, there are a handful of producers that can make excellent wine from the variety, Thelema in Stellenbosch being one of them.
Last night the 1994 and who would’ve thought local Merlot could be so long-lived? Much debate as to whether it was more New World (on account of still juicy fruit and the property’s trademark mintiness) or Old Word (oyster-shell savouriness and fine, grippy tannins).
Have to love Platter’s as a depository of local wine’s finer points as well as idiosyncratic commentary. The 1998 edition says of the wine “Latest release 1994… a good year – friendly, true to type, though less demonstrative on palate, finish, than some in the past. Has about 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Mintiness more subdued too – a plus,[winemaker Gyles] Webb feels. Less new oak (10%) in a 20-month barrel maturation helps make this low-cost Thelema red (in 1996 under-priced at R25/bottle in 1997 more realistic at R35)”. Things have changed somewhat since then: for one thing, entries in Platter’s are not nearly as long, for another the current release 2008 vintage of Thelema Merlot Reserve costs R225 a bottle