03 March 2007

Meerendal Releases Single Vineyard Heritage Block Pinotage

Whetafields Restaurant is in Meerendals historic Manor House A world class meal demands a world class wine and at Meerendal Estate (pictured left) I enjoyed both.

Meerendal have taken opportunity of the recent change in South Africa’s Wine Of Origin system to register production from single vineyard block. This block, officially identified as number 2D and named The Heritage Block, was planted with Pinotage in 1955, making them the oldest Pinotage vines in the Durbanville area and – by my reckoning – the third oldest in the world.

I mentioned earlier that visiting Meerendal to taste this wine would be a must during my time in the Cape.I had the extreme good fortune to meet David Higgs, Meerendal’s General Manager/Executive Chef (pictured right) David Higgs, Meerendal’s General Manager/Executive Chef at Beyerskloof and he immediately invited me to lunch to taste the wine at Meerendal.

Meerendal is easy to find – take the R302 exit north from the N1 , and after passing through Durbanville take the left fork onto the M48 and you cannot miss Meerendal on the right. The Estate changed hands a few years ago, and the new owners have great plans – the release of a single vineyard Pinotage is the result of one and there are new building works underway.

There is a buzzy Bistro with great views from its deck and a deli stocking produce made on the farm, a function room and a chapel whichjis a favourite spot for weddings. And the old manor house (pictured above) houses the sophisticated Wheatfields restaurant.

The last of the Pinotage was being harvested although Heritage Block was already in tank undergoing malolactic fermentation. Meerendal do their alcoholic fermentation in kuipes - traditional open tanks. Each of the 20 tanks can hold 5 tons, so Meerendal can handle 100 tons of grapes at a time.

Winemaker Liza Goodwin told me that the 2005 vintage was the first where the grapes from the Heritage Block had been handled separately. “Everything is done by hand,”she told me, “from picking through to labeling the bottles.” She pointed at a small team of workers carefully placing the heavy paper engraved labels on the bottles - which have been imported especially. They weigh 1 kg and have a very deep punt. The 2006 vintage is in barrel. Lisa poured a taste in my glass. It had a good structure, subtle mulberry flavours of great depth and a long finish, on which wooding was apparent. “It has been in barrel 15 months and I expect to be bottling it next month,” said Lisa.

Oven Roasted springbok) sweetpotato and honey in crisp pastry) rosemary jus) salad of pancetta, mangetout, and smoked chili

In Wheatfields restuarant I chose Oven roasted Springbok, with sweet potato and honey rolled in crispy filo pastry on a bed of shredded mangetout which had been flash fried with some pancetta and homemade smoked chili, on rosemary gravy (pictured right) This dish was exceptional, with the mangetout outstanding being so crispy. One of the best meals I have eaten, and priced at just 90R.

With it we tasted Meerendal Pinotage 2003. This had a ripe fruity nose and although not overt there were rich silky berry flavours and an underlying sweet mouthfeel. A classy wine.

The single vineyard Heritage Block Pinotage 2005 was opened. "It was just bottled in December 06," Dave Higgs told me. There was a bright nose, it was exciting and youthful and a little perky, with dense mulberry and grip on the finish. We agreed it needed more bottle age. Having seen how well the 2003 has fared, I'd wouldn't open this wine till 2010 at the earliest.

I found it difficult to choose just one dish from the menu of this excellent menu, but it is hard to image a meal more enjoyable than my roast springbok with its 'salad of pancetta, mangetout, and smoked chili'. Executive Chef Dave Higgs, Head Chef Stephen Fraser and their team (they are training local youngsters in their kitchens) are cooking up a wow.

New York’s FOOD & WINE magazine (May 2006 issue) named Wheatfields in their List Of Hottest Restaurants In The World, one of just seven restaurants in the Cape. I have no doubt Dave and Stephen will go far in their profession and we wil be hearing much more of them in the future.

And as for The Heritage Block Pinotage: only 300 cases were made of this special initial 2005 vintage, so don't delay in in laying down some down. You'll be thanking me in 2010.

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