Prescient Merlot Report 2021: Top 10

By , 22 June 2021




This year’s Merlot Report sponsored by multinational financial services company Prescient is now out. There were 55 entries received from 45 producers and these were tasted blind (labels out of sight) by a three-person panel, scoring done according to the 100-point quality scale.

Top 10

The 10 best wines overall are:


De Grendel 2019
Price: R160
Wine of Origin: Cape Town
Abv: 14.79%


Plaisir de Merle 2018
Price: R180
Wine of Origin: Simonsberg Paarl
Abv: 14.25%


Vondeling Barrel Selection 2018
Price: R160
Wine of Origin: Voor Paardeberg
Abv: 13.7%


Dornier 2018
Price: R160
Wine of Origin: Stellenbosch
Abv: 14.8%


Jordan Black Magic 2018
Price: R190
Wine of Origin: Stellenbosch
Abv: 13.5%


Vergelegen Reserve 2016
Price: R270
Wine of Origin: Stellenbosch
Abv: 14.8%


Mischa La Famille 2019
Price: R110
Wine of Origin: Western Cape
Abv: 13.66%

90 – Best Buy

Mountain Ridge 2018
Price: R85
Wine of Origin: Breedekloof
Abv: 14.5%


Shannon Mount Bullet 2018
Price: R495
Wine of Origin: Elgin
Abv: 14.67%


Stellenbosch Reserve Kweekskool 2019
Price: R160
Wine of Origin: Stellenbosch
Abv: 14.25%

About the category

Merlot is the most widely planted variety in Bordeaux, especially celebrated for the role it plays in the great wines of St-Émilion and Pomerol. It is early ripening and typically adds flesh and roundness to a blend, thus complementing Cabernet Sauvignon, which is late-ripening and usually more austere.

In the rest of the world, Merlot competes only with Cabernet Sauvignon as the most planted dark-skinned grape variety. It has a huge popular following, most likely due to its reputation for being smooth textured rather than possessing any particular flavor. Its detractors, meanwhile, accuse it of making safe but dull wine.

In South Africa, it is the eighth-most planted variety (behind Chardonnay and ahead of Ruby Cabernet), making up 5.8% of the total area under vineyard.

What does top Merlot go for?

The average cellar-door price of the Top 10 is R197 a bottle. Offering the best quality relative to price is Mountain Ridge 2018 with a rating of 90 and selling for R85 a bottle.

Discovery of Report

The “Discovery of Report” serves to recognise previously unsung wines.

Mischa La Famille 2019

Brothers Andrew and Gary Barns run a substantial vine nursery on their Wellington property Mischa but they have for some time now also made their own wine. “La Famille” is their entry-level range, this Merlot 2019 combining own fruit with that sourced from Swartland.

In-depth analysis

To read the report in full, including key findings, tasting notes for the top wines and scores on the 100-point quality scale for all wines entered, download the following: Prescient Merlot Report 2021

Shop online

Johannesburg boutique wine retailer Dry Dock Liquor is offering some of the wines in the Top 10 for sale and can deliver nationwide – buy now.

Online retailer Wine-of-the-Month Club is offering a six-bottle mixed case selected from the Top 10 – buy now.



7 comment(s)

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    Gareth | 22 June 2021

    Were these particularly bad vintages for Shannon and de Trafford, respectively?

      Christian Eedes | 22 June 2021

      Hi Gareth, Shannon has had a wine among the top performers every year since the inaugural category report in 2017, the 2018 vintage of Mount Bullet once again doing the business this time around. Is it underscored on 90 points? Maybe but as ever, I’m glad if this site as viewed as being conservative rather than recklessly extravagant when it comes to ratings. As for De Trafford, this fine producer is arguably behind the market if the difficult 2016 is current-release.

        Stefan | 22 June 2021

        Hi Christian, Please elaborate your comments on the De Trafford 2016?

          Christian Eedes | 23 June 2021

          Hi Stefan, 2016 was at the height of the notorious Cape drought and was exceptionally hot and dry – many wines from this vintage seem to be developing quite quickly in bottle. In any event, most producers had their either their 2018 or 2019 vintages on in this line-up which tends to make older vintages look less lively.

            Ashley+Westaway | 23 June 2021

            As a point of reference, Platter’s rated the 2016 vintage 95 pts (5 stars). Winnie Bowman was the taster; she regarded it to be a wine of “beautiful balance”, with “great prospects”. Evidently, it held up well enough in the blind tasting that followed to be awarded the 5 star accolade. David’s wines generally age incredibly well.

    Kwispedoor | 22 June 2021

    Hi, Christian. I’m curious about the seven point difference between the 2018 and the 2019 Mountain Ridge Merlots, the one getting a Top 10 spot and the other the lowest score of the whole report. Especially since 2019 is, in most regions, arguably not considered a worse vintage than 2018. Could you elucidate, please?

      Christian Eedes | 22 June 2021

      Hi Kwispedoor, In the case of the 2019, the panel was concerned about oxidation, the wine variously described as “jammy” and “raisin-like” (both sample bottles were opened). The 2018’s good showing, meanwhile, is no fluke, the panel having rated it 89 in last year’s report.

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