Plaisir de Merle has launched what they deem as the pinnacle of blends in the estates’ 400 years of winemaking tradition. The limited edition 2013 Charles Marais is a heady blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot and winemaker Niel Bester says it’s the finest wine released in his 25 years as cellar master.
“Blends have become synonymous with Plaisir de Merle over time, but nothing quite as extraordinary as this wine has ever been produced from the estate. It’s quite fitting then that it’s named after the founder of Plaisir de Merle, Charles Marais. It would have been a fine moment for me to share a glass of this wine with the man who had the vision to set in place vineyards that to this day has a profound impact on how we make our wine.”
Niel says that as with any extraordinary wine, the story starts in the vineyard where he first selected the individual grapes for their exceptional quality long before deciding what the blend components would be.
“The grapes were destined for greatness and we ensured they enjoyed the royal treatment they deserved by handling the grapes separately from harvesting to fermentation and maturation. And when the time came to blend I only selected 12 out of the 100 barrels to create what I think is a magnificent wine.”
The Cabernet Sauvignon brings red berries, dark fruit and juicy tannins to the blend, while the Cabernet Franc adds blueberries and an herbaceous note. The Petit Verdot contributes forest berries and spice as well as some firm tannin. The Merlot lifts the blend with aromatic violets whilst French oak delivers flavours of pencil shavings, sweet vanilla and spice.
Dense, inky plum in colour the wine is aromatic with dark fruit and savoury notes on the nose. Luscious and full-bodied the palate opens up to reveal layers of ripe red and black fruit with juicy, soft tannins.
The dramatic Simonsberg Mountain offers a variety of elevations and slopes where the grapes are shaded by the harsh afternoon sun resulting in slow-ripening of the grapes with concentrated, terroir-driven flavours. Once harvested by hand, the grapes were hand-sorted, crushed and destemmed, cooled down to 13°C and transferred to small 5000 litre stainless steel fermentation tanks.
During fermentation the juice was controlled between 24°C and 26°C, collected from the bottom of the tanks and transferred back to the top to soak through the skins, ensuring a soft and delicate extraction of colour, flavour and tannins. After alcoholic fermentation was completed, a period of maceration followed when the skins and wine remained in contact for up to two weeks to achieve optimal richness of colour and depth of flavour. The wines underwent malolactic fermentation in 3rd fill 300 litre French oak barrels.
The wines were racked off the sediment and returned to new 300 litre French oak barrels. After a period of 16 months the barrels were individually tasted and evaluated. Only the barrels showing the purest varietal character were chosen for the final blend. The blended wine was transferred back to 3rd fill barrels and matured for a further six months to ensure a smooth integration of the components.
The wines were transferred from the barrels and bottled without any prior filtration. Thereafter the wine spent almost two years in the bottle to develop further complexity and structure.
The wine is named after founder Charles Marais who fled his home in France, setting sail with his family in 1687. They settled in the Groot Drakenstein Valley and in 1693 the Cape Governor, Simon van der Stel, granted him land, which he named after his home town, Le Plessis Marly. Today the farm is known as Plaisir de Merle. Charles Marais was one of only a handful of Frenchmen who had experience in winemaking when he arrived at the Cape and his vinous legacy lives on in Plaisir de Merle’s winemaking tradition.
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