2012 Rustenberg “John X Merriman”, Simonsberg, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Alcohol 14%) LCBO Vintages $24.95
Whilst wine lovers worldwide nurse their collective vinous arousal for the outstanding new wave of South African wines, it’s certainly worthwhile taking some time to revisit the classics. And when it comes to South African classics, few can match Rustenberg’s historied pedigree ; With a wine-growing history dating all the way back to 1682, you’d be hard-pushed to win all but a semantical battle that they were a New World producer.
This estate grown bottling is named for John X. Merriman, a brilliant and yet paradoxical (and oft confusing) liberal Cape Colony Prime Minister who took ownership of the farm in 1892 ; Merriman decided to purchase the property after witnessing the financial devastation of the former farmer owners brought on by phylloxera’s grip upon the region.
A classic five-varietal red Bordeaux blend (49% Cabernet Sauvignon/38% Merlot/8% Cabernet Franc/3% Petit Verdot/2% Malbec), this cépage sees 20 months in French barrique, with around 35% of that being new wood, the rest 2nd and 3rd fill barrels.
The resultant wine is a big, powerful savoury beast, that with a good decant will work admirably with some roast lamb if opened this evening. Saying that, I’d prefer to give it another five years or so in order to allow the wine’s firm tannic profile to soften a little, and the tertiary aromatics to evolve and come into their own. Even so, there’s a great deal going on in that glass already, with a decanted bottle already exhibiting an attractive bloody red meaty, butcher shop profile, along with blackcurrant, raspberry, leather, wood spice, cocoa powder, and roasted espresso beans. Weighty on the palate, but with a nice little zip of red berry acidity, this wine is seriously astounding value and deserves a place at your dinner table.
(Four apples out of a possible five)
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he loves the meaty, butchershop smell going on with this wine.