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Topical pic: Meerlust – more Burgundy than Bordeaux?

Meerlust Pinot Noir 2009
Meerlust Pinot Noir 2009

Meerlust Pinot Noir 2008 is rated 5 Stars in Platter’s 2011, repeating the feat of the 2004 vintage in the 2009 edition of the guide. I tasted the yet-to-released 2009 vintate 10 days ago at a celebration of three decades of the property’s flagship Bordeaux-style red blend Rubicon and it was so good that I thought it was self-defeating on the part of winemaker Chris Williams to show it on a day when the attention was meant to be elsewhere. What if after 30 years, you realised your Bordeaux-type effort was outclassed by your Burgundy?


  1. I’m glad you liked the Pinot Christian. When I took over at Meerlust in 2004, I told Hannes that we shouldn’t bottle any wine which we did not think could be superlative and a benchmark in its class. There was much discussion but I spoke up for our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, believing then (and even more so now) that we could produce fine examples of these wines from Estate grown fruit. It is gratifying to see the Pinot being appreciated in this way. It is our aim to produce 4 flagship wines, individually recognized as among the standard bearers of South African wine.

  2. Hi guys
    When one thinks of the best South African Pinot and Chard, you often think of cool climate Walkey Bay, or the lime rich soils of Robertson. What makes the terroir of Meerlust suited to these Burgundian varieties? I assume you are going to say it is within 6km of the cost…I am not being cynical I would just like something more concrete or meaningful.

    Cheers Dionysus 

  3. Thanks Dionysus, its a good question. I would prefer 3-5 degrees celsius less average summertime daily temperature and I covet the limestone soils of Robertson. What we have done is pull out any underperforming vineyards (we still have a 23 year old vineyard of Pinot which is great, along with 2 newer vineyards planted to Dijon clones), we mercilessly drop crop and manage the canopy. The vineyard is a mere 2.5 km from false bay, South facing and 75-85 meters above sea level, the coolest site on the farm. It ain’t Burgundy or Otago, but through vineyard practice, a light touch in the cellar and blending of the 3 clones, I think we turn out pretty good Pinot. Also, it makes for an interesting excersize to compare climate data of Southern Stellenbosch and Hemel and Aarde valley.

  4. Chris, I have a fairly good sense of direction and if you had said to me 2,5km from the sea I would have said you were smoking your socks. I know for example that Hamilton Russel is at best 2km from the sea, one can therefore conclude that the rest of the Walker Bay crew are further than that from the ocean. If one thinks Stellenbosch you think heat in Summer. But the more I learn the more I realize, micro climates are they key.  

    Thanks for the detailed response.

  5. dionysus, in the case of the Hemel en Aarde valley (NB lower case ‘v’!), it’s not merely distance from the sea, but altitude. HRV, as you probably know is lower down the valley and actually generally warmer than wineries, such as Newton Johnson, further up and more exposed to the summer breezes. I also believe winemaker attitude and aptitude has much to do with our growing success with pinot, Chris being a good case in point.


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