Durbanville, a pretty rural hilly region north of and close to Cape
Town, known for its stunning hill grown cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc and classy Pinotage.
Meerendal Estate has the third oldest Pinotage vineyard in the Cape – and
thus the world. These six hectares of gnarled bush vines growing on
red clay were planted in 1955.
went to meet winemaker and viticulturist Liza Goodwin and Benny
Howard CWM, to update myself on what's been happening since I visited
ten years ago, to taste current offerings and to visit the old
have been a lot of changes, and I found the tasting room behind the
new Carlucci's coffee shop and deli. The tasting room walls were
covered in paintings from an artist who will be designing a new
Goodwin has been Meerendal's winemaker since 1998 so she has a
detailed in-depth knowledge of the Estate's terroir and cultivars,
but she is not stuck in the past and is working with new wines and
started with 2017 Sauvignon Blanc - “to wash out our mouths”,
joked Bennie. Liza says that Durbanville savvie benefits from ageing,
and that after five years it becomes something special and she finds
it frustrating that the local market wants to drink only the youngest
vintage. Her Sauvignon Blanc spends five months on its lees and
“after a year develops complex green grassy tones.”
This was an
attractive wine, dry yet full bodied enough to give an impression of
sweetness. Closed with a screw cap.
Meerendal Estate Pinotage 2015
WO Cape Town
comes from a 9.3ha vineyard planted in 1999. It's trellised and
dry-farmed, meaning it is not irrigated. It's more productive than
the old block producing larger berries and 12-15 tons per hectare.
The wine spends a maximum of 12 months in 50/50 new and second fill
French oak barrels. “I'm not a great fan of wood,” said Lisa. “I
don't want to taste a forest. When you've got great fruit, why cover
it with wood?”
there is great fruit, raspberries and strawberries, in an elegant
wine showing its pinot heritage.
points out that 2015 is the first vintage to be labelled with the new
Wine of Origin Cape Town. It's thought this appellation name will
have greater international appeal than the previously used smaller
areas including Durbanville. (Other appellations now in WO Cape Town
Philadelphia and Hout Bay which are all within 35 kilometres of the
centre of Cape Town. Some 30 wineries will use WO Cape Town.)
Estate 'Heritage Block' Pinotage 2015
came from the old dry-farmed bush vine block planted in 1955. The
previous vintage release was 2010. Liza said that there wasn't enough
local demand for the prestige single block bottling every year so
from 2011 to 2014 its fruit had gone into the standard bottling.
had been aged for 24 months in all new small French oak barrels, and
bottled in June 2017. “The berries were very small and the fruit
is strong enough to carry the wood,” said Liza.
wine had just been opened and was very tight . “It should be
decanted an hour before drinking,” said Lisa. She expected the
optimum drinking time to start in 2020 though it would be good
drinking for many years afterwards. I could taste the power of
restrained fruit waiting for time to reveal them and it rewarded with
a long lingering finish. This is definitely a wine that would pay
keeping, whereas the 'standard' Pinotage from the large trellised
block will, without doubt, age and develop, it was much more ready
to drink now.
Pinotage Rosé 2017
pale pink wine, that seems quite sweet after the previous wines.
“Only two hours skin contact”, said Liza. “Then I treat it like
a white wine. It's cold fermented and then I add some grape
concentrate to push up sugar level to 10 grams per litre. We always try to keep the alcohol at between 12.5 and 13%, but this vintage we ended up with 14%.”
The Rosé is made for the German market, where such is its popularity 35,000
bottles are sent annually.
did tests to find what optimum sweetness was wanted. At 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9
grams per litre of residual sugar they shook their heads. At 10gL they said 'yes,
wine is not distributed locally, though 5,000 bottles are sold in
Meerendal's two restaurants. The fruit comes from outside the estate.
the attractively coloured pale wine is a real crowd pleaser with its
sweetness and fresh fruity-gum flavours.
Estate 'Intensio' Pinotage 2015
heavy statement deep-punted bottle with wax capsule holds this
Amarone style wine. One third of bunches are harvested at 25 brix to
hang in nets in the cellar until they dry out to 30 brix. The
remaining two-thirds of bunches have their stems twisted at 24 brix
so the berries dry on the vine and are harvested when they reach 30
grapes on the vine dry much faster than those in the nets,” said
Liza. Then they are separately fermented before being blended
together. The raisining of the grapes leaves 6gl residual sugar.
is a very labour intensive wine,” said Bennie. “Not only in the
vineyard twisting stems, and winery drying grapes in nets, but every
bottle is dipped by hand into wax to make the capsule.”
was a dense and luscious wine that over time opened out even more and
grew more silky and richer with lots of dense black plum fruit
flavours. I loved this.
all goes to a German company who market it, hence the USA Surgeon
General's message and US importer's address on this bottle's back label
the cellar Bennie magicked up
Estate Pinotage 1995
23 years old and yet sprightly. There is a slight browning on the rim
and a whiff of age that soon clears. Then an upfront sweetness on the
palate. It was deliciously soft and ripe with a beautiful spiciness.
“This is one of the wines made when we were in partnership with
the Bergkelder,” said Bennie. “We get emails from around the
world from people who have opened an old Meerendal Pinotage and want
to tell us how great it is.” And moments later Bennie's mobile rang
with a call from Beyers Truter who was in Switzerland tasting a 1969
Meerendal Pinotage which was 'very much alive with good fruit and
tannins, an excellent wine.'
at Meerendal is a distillery from which Liza brought a sample drawn
from cask of a golden brandy. “2017 is the first year we've made
brandy from Pinotage,” she said. “It's a trial. I've added water
to this to bring it down to about 43% abv.” It smelled powerfully alcoholic and was a work in progress.
wanted to visit the old Pinotage block and Estate Manager Matt
Zoutendyk kindly drove Liza and me there in his farm bakkie.
|350 Pinotage bush vines planted for the Cape's 350th anniversary of wine making.|
passed a small vineyard of 350 bush vines planted in 2009 to celebrate South
anniversary of wine making. The vines were all cloned from the 1955
block and each one was planted by a personality and has their name on it. “Mine is Number
5,” Liza told me. “We hope to make wine from it and present a bottle to each of the 350 people.”
old block is planted on red clay on a high slope that gets strong
breezes from the Atlantic ocean, visible over the crest. The vine
trunks are thick, gnarled and grey, their leaves vivid green against
the red soil and deep clear blue sky.
|Pinotage vine planted in 1955|
To my eyes there are
impressively large bunches of purple grapes, but Liza is not so
happy. “We have some millerandage because of strong winds at
flowering time,” she remarks. Millerandage, where flowers are not fertilised, results in small seedless berries.
She dives through some leaves and
lifts a bunch in the palm of her hand. “See how there's uneven
ripening.” She points to some green and pale red berries among the
tightly bunched purple berries.
“And these ones...” She picks a
berry from a vine at the end of a row that has lost its leaves and
chews on it. “It's raisined.” These berries are drying, their skin
wrinkled. The vineyard will need to be picked carefully and the
berries sorted and selected.
But there are plenty of healthy bunches and I reckon, though the harvest may be smaller than usual, this year's crop will make an excellent quality wine,
|The Heritage Block, 6 ha planted in 1955, was Meerendals third Pinotage planting.|
The first two vineyards, planted in 1953 and 1954 became diseased were removed some time ago.
Short video in Heritage Block with Cellarmaster and Viticulturist Liza Goodwin and Estate Manager Matt Zoutendyk
It is a pleasure to stand here surrounded by old vines, the warmth of the
bright sun in a clear sky refreshed by cool breezes. Matt drives us a
short way up the hill past more recent trellised vineyards 'till we
can see the sea, and then we head back down to the winery complex to
lunch in Meerendal's Crown Restaurant.
|The Crown is one of two restaurants at Meerendal|
Bennie has brought the opened 1995
Pinotage from the tasting room which pairs beautifully with my
'Gourmet Burger' with scrumptious hand-cut fried potato wedges.
|Lovely generously meaty burger taste homemade and crisp large wedges make a perfect Pinotage match.|
Have I found wine lands best burger?
Meerendal combine history and tradition with forward thinking and transition. I mustn't leave it so long before I return. I can't wait to see what they do next.
I am most impressed by their Wine Academy which gives anyone, for a modest fee, the opportunity to spend a week in Meerendal's vineyard and winery at vintage time covering all aspect of wine making under the care of cellar master Liza Goodwin combined with classroom tuition and tastings by Cape Wine Master Bennie Howard to gain the coveted industry qualification, the Cape Wine Academy certificate.
|Meerendal first Pinotage vineyard was planted in 1953|
Many thanks to Liza Goodwin, Bennie Howard and to European Sales Manager Siobhan Hughes for arranging my visit.